The Furniture Society's annual conference was a success in terms of the well-attended presentations and overall satisfaction of the membership. The conference, held June 10-13 at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., played on the region's strong history in manufacturing and the theme, "Industrious: The Design, Craft & Commerce of Furniture Making."
The focus on production was bit of a departure for the studio furniture organization, as the attendees took advantage of the scheduled tours of the Bernhardt and Hickory Chair manufacturing facilities.
"What we saw was that largely the techniques, the care and the detail, and the pride in a good product were all exactly the same," says Andrew Glantz, president of the Furniture Society and principal of Zenith Design in Scottsdale, Ariz. "Yes, [the manufacturers] make more units and, yes, there are significant differences in approach and methods, but what we consider the hallmarks of our work were also there."
The conference drew about 225 attendees, down from previous years. The Furniture Society has approximately 1,000 members.
Keynote speaker Mitchell Gold began the four-day conference promoting passion in the workplace. Gold and business partner Bob Williams run a chain of retail stores and a furniture manufacturing company known for its family-friendly work environment and on-site nonprofit day care center.
"[Gold] talked about comfort in the way we sit, comfort in the way a customer looks at a price, and comfort for all of the people involved in the business transaction - the employees, furniture customers and suppliers," says Glantz.
Dozens of panelists reflected on issues important to society members, including building techniques, design and marketing topics. Glantz says the marketing seminar moderated by Charlie Sutton, "If I build it, will they come?," was particularly intriguing.
"It featured a handful of marketing experts talking about how to market yourself and market your pieces. I thought that was excellent. For instance, one panelist discussed marketing electronically, using the Internet and all of the things that go into that."
Vladimir Kagan was honored with The Furniture Society's Award of Distinction. Trained as both a cabinetmaker and architect, the German-born designer has, during the last 60 years, established himself as a preeminent maker, designer and marketer in studio and production furniture and has various showrooms throughout the U.S.
"[Kagan] was very engaging and the things that he had to say were very important for us to hear. He was kind enough not only to accept the award, but he went to everything. He had a great time and he was still there Sunday morning after everyone else was long gone, critiquing student work. I though that was really marvelous; he
didn't have to do that," says Glantz.
The conference also featured several juried and non-juried exhibitions. Glantz says these exhibitions, coupled with the diverse presentations and demonstrations, created an overall rich experience for attendees of all types. Combined with the networking opportunities, the conference is an educational asset for furniture makers who want to enhance their business.
"Here I am, working in my little garage shop, and most of what I do is relatively repetitive. This gives me food for thought for an entire year. We are colleagues, not competition, and we tend to freely share ideas and techniques with one another," says Glantz.
Just days before the conference, Furniture Society executive director David Edgar resigned. Edgar had been elected to the position in January after a 10-month search.
"It became more obvious to the board and to him that it was not a good match, that we were not headed in the same directions and it would be better not to prolong it," says Glantz. The group's officers have assumed the managerial duties.
The Furniture Society's 2010 conference will be held in Boston.
Contact: The Furniture Society, 111 Grovewood Road, Asheville, NC 28804. Tel: 828-255-1949. www.furnituresociety.org
This article originally appeared in the August 2009 issue.