The Mountain Times

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From forests to furnishings: Vermont craftsmanship on display

By now anyone who reads a newspaper or catches news on radio or television can't help but know about the farm-to-table movement and today's emphasis on locally sourced foods.

Perhaps less well known, but also a most significant part of our state's history and economy is the forestry-to-furnishings industry.
Since Vermont was settled, the forests have provided for homes - the logs that were used to build houses to the lumber for furnishings necessary to live in them and heat them. According to the Vermont Wood Products Marketing Council, "Since the 1870s, wood products have been the single-most important manufacturing industry in Vermont."

As part of the working landscape, this industry has provided thousands of jobs, not just for the loggers and sawmills and homebuilders but also for the hundreds of fine furniture and furnishings craftsmen working in the state today.

That was no more apparent than at the 10th Annual Vermont Fine Furniture, Woodworking and Forestry Festival held in Woodstock, Sept. 28 and 29. The event showcased the sustainable forestry practices that provide livelihoods at the Marsh-Billings Rockefeller National Historical Park and the useful and quality end products that Vermont crafters fashion at the Union Arena next to the Woodstock High School.

The woodcrafters' demonstrations and displays were amazing, with every manner of wood product to view; from practical spoons, bowls, serving trays, cutting boards, and toys to fine furniture and cabinetry.

The experience of viewing their work and speaking with the crafters was enlightening for their love of not only the wood they work with but also the creative design aspect to their crafts. This was evident both with the experienced woodworkers and the student work of members of the Vermont Woodworking School based in Fairfax. Creative design and quality craftsmanship is integral to their passion for what they do.

Local Woodcrafters
The central Vermont region was well represented at the show with both first-time exhibitors like Douglas Martin of Chittenden and Michael Amsden of West Rutland as well as a host of veteran fine woodworkers like Bob Gasperetti who was exhibiting for his ninth year.

Martin, who works with his customers on a range of items from custom cabinetry to beds, tables and dining sets, noted that he was pleased to have the opportunity to not only sell items at the show but to make contacts for future projects and that he had already connected with an architect among others.

Amsden, who works in all hardwoods and was exhibiting a solid cherry bed platform bed, cherry desk of Shaker design, lamps, stools, and serving trays as well as his custom upholstered couch, was similarly making contacts and was also a great find if one was looking for someone to re-cane or reweave a chair seat.

Bob Gasperetti, who works in cherry, walnut and figured maples, displayed a range of his furniture, explaining that he enjoys using tiger, birdseye, ambrosia, and pecky maples because they are "interesting and never boring." In addition to his free-standing household furniture like desks, rockers, tables and more, he crafts wood boards that resemble fine art because they are so smooth to the touch and wondrous in appearance.

Walter Stanley of Brookside Woodworking of Castleton also displayed his dining furniture, tables, and cabinetry with finishes so beautiful that the craftsmanship and artistry of Vermont's woodworkers has recognized his work many times.

Woodturner Rich DeTrano of Ludlow offered an assortment of hollow wooden vessels, from vases to urns and bowls. His work, once again, made clear that wood workers are indeed artists.

ClearLake Furniture of Ludlow and William Laberge, a cabinetmaker from Dorset were also in attendance representing our regional furniture craftsmen along with Jordan Marvin of Vermont Wooden Spoon Company in Mendon doing a good business in ladles, spoons, and "forked salad hands" and Tim Pattillo of Patt Chainsaw carvings in Rutland, who provided a demonstration and display of his craft with whimsical and fun benches, signs, and animals.

Unique and Fun
Woodworkers from all over Vermont also displayed unique items like the Vermont Folk Rocker, Birds in Wood, jewelry, and original and fun designs for everyday objects like clocks, tables, mirrors, and toys.

While demonstrating bowl turning, Joe Laferriere explained that "form, function, finish and feeling (of the wood product) are key to the appeal" of wood-crafted products and that those factors will be experienced differently for each person.

Author's note: My reaction to this show was: "I will take one of each." If I ever win the lottery that is indeed what I would do! For more info visit www.vermontwood.com, www.vermontwoodfestival.org or www.nps.gov/mabi and be sure to put next year's show on your to-do list.