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SAPFM sets agenda for a mid-year conference

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The annual mid-year conference of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers is scheduled for June 24-27 at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., and those planning to go eagerly await. The conference, cancelled for the past two years by Covid, brings a wealth of programming focused on the art of period furniture making.

“If Covid ever decides to leave us alone, and we get an opportunity to get together, it’s a joyous event because people come from all over the country,” says acting Society president Scott Severns. “It’s almost like a reunion of kindred spirits. Everybody’s of the same like-mindedness. We all love the same thing. We all love generating sawdust. We get together and talk about things we’ve done, and we catch up with family. It’s like a reunion of sorts and we all have that common love of just building furniture.”

He adds that while the Society has a focus on period furniture, it’s not just a niche group only interested in that style of craft.

“Yes, period furniture is in our roots. It’s where we’re founded, but we build all kinds of things. Our gatherings, our events are a great time, with lots of information. There’s something there for everyone, the conservator, the collector, the builder, the newbie who’s gobsmacked over the intricacies of the Chippendale and the Queen Anne pieces. There’s something there for everybody,” Severns adds.

The Society has partnered with the University’s Department for Historic Preservation, and all presentations, as well as two banquets, will take place on the campus.

A special awards ceremony will be held at the conference to recognize member Chuck Bender of Acanthus Workshop in Jim Thorpe, Pa., this year’s recipient of the Society’s annual Cartouche Award honoring excellence and dedication to period furniture making. Bender, an author and YouTube personality, will demonstrate period techniques featured in his publications throughout the conference. He is excited to attend.

“To me, these kinds of gatherings give us a chance for in-person ideas and debate that you just can’t get any other way. Events like this, I really enjoy getting to meet and getting to know woodworkers from other areas because they’ve all studied different aspects of period furniture. So guaranteed, I’m going to learn something from someone that I didn’t know before,” says Bender.

The Friday night opening banquet will feature guest speaker Tara Chicirada, curator of furniture at Colonial Williamsburg.

The next day, Saturday, will feature three 90-minute presentations, among other programming, where members will rotate between classrooms with the following speakers and topics:

  • Jeff Headley and Steve Hamilton on the architectural influences of furniture and interior woodwork in Shenandoah Valley, including mantles, clocks, valances and large case pieces.
  • Kaare Loftheim, former master of the Anthony Hay Cabinet Shop in Colonial Williamsburg, demonstrating decorative cock-beading with traditional hand tools.
  • Adam Erby, associate curator at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, on the first president’s “consumption” of English and Virginia furniture from 1757-1774.

Another event that evening will include a presentation by Sumpter Priddy, a scholar and dealer of southern antiques, on “Baroque Furniture of the Lower Chesapeake 1725-1750, The Lower Tidewater World of William Walker.”

The following day, the conference will feature presenter Don Williams, former senior furniture conservator at the Smithsonian Institution; Luke Barnett on Windsor chairs, and a demonstration by Reid Beverly.

The Society is organizing optional field trips to view a private collection and visit Robert E. Lee’s boyhood home, Stratford Hall.

For conference updates and registration information, visit sapfm.org

This article was originally published in the March 2022 issue.

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