Virtual woodworking gallery makes debut

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Fine Wood Artists' site displays work of custom professionals who want to showcase and advertise their work online

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There is a new online gallery and resource for custom woodworkers on the Web, and it's somewhat different than its existing counterparts. Fine Wood Artists was launched Sept. 15 by Nakisha VanderHoeven, who worked for more than 10 years at Northwest Fine Woodworking, a Seattle-based cooperative of custom furniture makers that was founded in 1980.

"It's been an idea that I have been toying around with for a number of years and just never had the time to work on it," says VanderHoeven, owner and Web designer of Fine Wood Artists. "From working a lot with the artists and hearing what they wanted from a Web site, that's pretty much how it came about."

Many woodworkers don't have the time or inclination to build their own Web site or pay someone to do it for them, she explains. And there are others who have Web sites, but fail to keep them up to date.

"Most woodworkers want to stay in the woodshop, they don't want to play around on the computer all day like I do," VanderHoeven says. "So I wanted to offer that to them. It is an online gallery and I do try to run it like a gallery so there is a [juried] selection process. Also, I wanted to put it out there as a resource for woodworkers, and I know from my experience from woodworking at Northwest Fine Woodworking that a lot of visitors to the site are woodworkers looking for inspiration or woodworkers looking to learn how to do this. I wanted to include on my site information about wood and resources for people who do woodworking."

There are sections on wood and trees, woodworking schools, woodworking suppliers, woodworking books and other related topics. But the main focus is on the artists and showcasing their fine woodworking.

"Ideally, I would like to get people from all over the world, but it seems to be mostly North America," she says. "I have just under 50 and I'm getting more every day. I have a lot of people that are still trying to get me the materials to put up. But I am only going to accept a limited number; I'm putting the cap at 100 woodworkers because that is about as many as I can manage. I don't want to saturate the site. I don't want it to be so impersonal that there are so many people on there that it loses that personal touch."

Compared to similar Web sites, woodworkers accepted by Fine Wood Artists pay a relatively low fee - $36 to $144 annually. The cost is dependent on the amount of photos and text the individual artist desires to have placed on the site.

"The fee is my start-up fee and right now, at least for the first year, I'm just looking to cover costs and to see what I can do with this site. Ideally, down the line, a lot of the advertising that is going to be on the site is something that will pay for that. It's not so much an experiment because I know this will work, but it is something that I want to make affordable to people who want to do this."

The 100 selected wood artists will be a blend of furniture makers, turners and sculptors. VanderHoeven plans to market the site to people who are interested in purchasing fine woodworking. Her goal is to drive customers to the individual woodworkers. Depending on how successful the site is, she sees the possibility of opening it up to a different medium.

Contact: Fine Wood Artists. www. finewoodartists.com

This article originally appeared in the November 2009 issue.

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