Thursday, September 23, 2010

Q & A with a Woodworking Gallery Director

Sharon Ricci, the director of Northwest Fine Woodworking in Seattle,  kindly offered to answer a couple of questions about the business of selling fine woodworking.
Sharon Ricci

Please tell us about your role at Northwest Fine Woodworking.
I am Director of the gallery which entails managing day to day business, developing and orchestrating events to engage the community about fine woodworking in the Northwest, and selecting a revolving inventory of furniture and craft that meets the criteria set forth by the cooperative membership.  Being a coop, the gallery is run by many helping hands so my role is key in keeping things on track toward the bigger picture. 

When an artist approaches a gallery with intent of showing there, what do you think are the most important things they should consider? 
 A gallery is a business geared toward customer service.  Be prepared before you approach any gallery with a clear idea of how to describe your work, and have professional looking images of current designs that are available.  Know that each gallery has its own rules for reviewing new work and if you want to succeed you will have to work with them on their terms to get your foot in the door.  Also there is a fine but definite line between persistence and annoyance. 

What is the biggest mistake in your opinion that woodworkers make in regards to showing or selling their work?
Not having media worthy photos of their creations!  Bad lighting, wrinkled bed sheets, a cluttered background, blurriness – all of these things can be corrected so that a photo is crisp, clear and appealing.   

What do you think is the best way a woodworker should market themselves and their work?
Be prepared with the above (good photos, a brief but direct description of your work and a body of available designs) then talk to lots of people about what you do.  You have to visit many shops and galleries to see where your work would be a good fit, absorb what else is out there as competition or compliment and talk to the sales staff about what clients respond to. 

Woodworking is a rather solitary career pursuit and many artists and builders get into a grind of working in the shop for long stretches of time at the sacrifice of social interaction.  If that sounds like you - force yourself to go to at least one gallery, museum or community event a week so that you can talk about what you are in the process of making and grow connections.  Having a website and dropping off cards will never be as appealing a meaningful conversation and a hearty handshake. 

Any advice for seasoned and aspiring woodworkers in this tough economy?
Follow your inspiration!  When you make something from a place of passion and enthusiasm it generates passion and enthusiasm.  We are all starved for those things that are genuine and uplifting.  If you can work in that state of mind the end result will be successful on multiple levels.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

30th Anniversary Show at Northwest Fine Woodworking

John Thoe with his Mirror
I was privileged to attended the recent opening on Friday night for the 30th Anniversary Show at Northwest Fine Woodworking in downtown Seattle. The large gallery was not only full of beautiful furniture, turned wood and wood art, but a great crowd of admirers, collectors and resident artists.

Northwest Fine Woodworking started 30 years ago as a woodworking cooperative and has been a Seattle destination for woodworkers and collectors alike. This show embraces the new work of some of its long standing members such as David Gray, Grady Mathews, Tom Stangeland, and Curtis Erpelding, as well as relative new comers such as Hugh Montgomery and Seth Rolland.

There was also a wonderful showing or new work by Fine Wood Artists members John Thoe, Brad Gallahar, Robert Spangler, Spencer Horn, and Tom Deady.

Northwest Fine Woodworking is indeed a unique institution in the field of fine woodworking and this historic show is worth a visit. Whether looking for inspiration or a heirloom quality item for your home, now is the chance to see some of the best craftsmanship and innovative design out there. 

You can see more of the show on there website here:

Northwest Fine Woodworking is located in downtown Seattle, in the historic Pioneer Square district-
101 S. Jackson St, Seattle WA 98104 (206) 625-0542

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Work- Andrew Pitts

Cherry, walnut, white oak, red cedar, tulip poplar
Shellac Polish Finish
36"H x 51"W x 20"D

The gentle curved hardwood laminations that make up the Blanket Chest are from local Chesapeake Bay trees that have fallen in storms or were dying and given new life. The ebonized carvings in the Tulip Poplar on front and back are two different coastal bay scenes with whimsical play, and the bookmatched cherry crotch laminates on the ends lend a bit of formality to the piece. The ebonized white oak laminated legs and the top and bottom of walnut with the sapwood intact build on the theme of my Shadows of Night cabinet. The finely finished shellac polish exterior is a joy to touch. Open the blanket chest on its fine brass hardware and take in the soothing aroma of the red cedar laminations on the inner walls.

But this is only part of the story! The back is another scene from our shoreline!

Please click here to see the entire piece!
More of Andrew's work can be seen on Fine Wood Artists

Friday, September 3, 2010

More Thoughts on Sustainability - Erik Wolken

Bench by Erik Wolken

When last I visited the issue of  am I green enough, I was reluctant at best to take on the moniker of a green maker, but considered myself at least on the right path. Now the subject has come up yet again.

I was recently approached to join a website selling eco friendly art to the the design trade. So once again I must ask myself if I am worthy to join such a select group? My first thought in responding to the request was to chant my mantra, “I am not your typical green maker who uses groovy bamboo recycled plastic and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood in their work. I just make well-crafted work mostly in solid wood from mostly locally sourced materials that hopefully will not end up in a landfill for a couple hundred years.” The response I got back, “ yeah that works for me,” was not what I expected. I expected to be politely declined and to take the easy way out of having to further explore my greenness. Instead, I felt like I had just gained entry into a club in which I did not belong and now had to come up with a new rationale to justify my membership.

So I set out on a quest to make myself greener. My first step was to call my local family run lumber yard, where I buy most of my lumber, and see if I could get that holy grail of greenness - FSC certified wood for future projects. When I spoke with the owner, he replied that because he was not FSC certified he could not sell FSC products and because it cost $3,500 a year to become certified it was unlikely he would be able to do it. That seemed like a lot of money to me as well but I figured as long as I had him on the phone I would ask a few more questions. I was curious if he knew the source of most of his domestic hardwoods, to which he replied all most were from the southeast and mostly came from Appalachian hardwoods or roughly about a 200-mile radius from us. He also went on to say that he had certificates from the U.S Forestry Service certifying most of his hardwoods as sustainable harvested. While not the green seal of approval I sought, that all seemed pretty in line with my own beliefs on green and it would allow me to continue to support a small family run business instead of a large corporation - something also in my belief system.
But I decided to continue my search anyway. I did a Google search and called the large local lumber yards. As I had suspected, nobody local stocked FSC products but it could be found within a couple hours drive. The suppliers were almost all the big boys and I would have to pay trucking fees, buy in larger quantities and of course pay more for the materials as well as not being able to hand pick the lumber for color, grain, and the least waste as I usually do.
If there is a moral to this story it is that being green involves trade offs. I might like to build my furniture from FSC certified woods, but to do so the wood would have to be trucked in from further away, bought from a large corporate entity and would result, ironically, in more waste than carefully hand picking what I need from my small time local dealer.

It was a long trip, but I've returned to my beginning. Being green is many things. I may not be able to claim the sexy aspects of it but I do my best.