Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mission Furniture

My first teachings in woodworking were in Shaker furniture, but a close second was Mission furniture. The darkened aged white oak with it's rays, or flecks, always seems perfect for the simple design features characteristic of Arts and Crafts furniture. Combined with exposed, detailed joinery, and leather, in any shade, the Mission Style has always drawn me in. I want to build it, and I want to own it. Matthew Moser taught me how to really build furniture, and he said one time; "Take your time on this joint because it will be seen every day by a lot of people, and there's something about a well-made joint that just lets me know all's right in the world". Whenever I see a wedged, chamfered, through-tenon in a piece of Mission furniture, I think of Matt's quote.
While the number of furniture makers exclusively building Mission style furniture is pretty low, ,the style, like Shaker furniture, is in nearly every furniture maker's history. Many Maine furniture makers, in true Arts and Crafts fashion, utilize basic characteristics of Mission design in their contemporary furniture works.
McIntosh and Tuttle Cabinetmakers have a beautiful line of Mission-based furniture. "Inspired, hand-crafted furniture combining the traditional beauty of fine, handwoven baskets and the contemporary sleekness of metallic accents, the Intervale Collection is a fresh interpretation of old and new. Each unique piece in the collection is a delicious blending of warm, rich cherry with cool, crisp aluminum. Graceful and rugged all at once, this custom collection will be treasured for generations to come".
Kevin Rodel is another contemporary furniture maker who draws from the Arts and Crafts movement. "I strongly encourage new design work that draws inspiration from the roots of the original International Arts & Crafts movement but, at the same time, is contemporary and meaningful to our present life styles and environment".
Tom Higbee, of Blue Spruce Joinery, and John Wagner Custom Furniture are two more talented woodworkers whose works fall into this category. For the most part, these Mission style furniture makers operate out of their small one-man shops in their respective Maine towns, using materials purchased locally, contributing to their local economies.
Nearly every Maine town has at least one woodworker who is active in their community, whether it's sitting at the counter eating an early breakfast at the diner talking town politics, or sponsoring a little league team, or helping to raise money for a school or charity. These men and women furniture makers all over our state are successful at what they do because they care about the quality of their work, and their reputation as woodworkers, and as members of their communities.
Maine Furniture's mission is to show people that there is so much more behind every piece of furniture made in Maine than mere lumber and nails. Everyone has their own story and influences, yet they all share in a lifelong commitment to living an honest existence exhibited in their family and community lives, and in their dedication to exceptional quality in their work and work ethics. Small Town Maine lends itself to these people who produce some of the best furniture in the world. With an industry dominated by cheap imports on the fast track to our landfills, we strongly believe that buying quality furniture is great for your bank account in the long run, and great for our local and national economies, and great for our environment. And above all ... it just looks good.