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The Arts

Vermont furniture makers’ work explores tradition, change, and sustainability

‘Evolving Traditions’ now on display in Brattleboro

BRATTLEBORO—“Evolving Traditions,” a new exhibit at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC), showcases work by 15 members of the Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers and six collaborating artists.

Tom Bodett, Timothy Clark, Greg Goodman, and Charles Shackleton led the creation of the exhibit, which is on view through Feb. 13, 2022 and includes their work.

The exhibit “highlights the creative energy and fresh thinking that Guild members are bringing to their work with this gorgeous, confounding material — the flesh of trees — some ancient, once alive — that knew the sun and the wind and the soil,” Bodett wrote in a statement accompanying the exhibit.

Its theme was inspired by changing concepts of “home” and “work” during the pandemic as well as by an increasing focus among Guild members on sustainable furniture-making practices. Each piece is accompanied by a statement tracing its maker’s influences and how their work has changed over time.

“My work is constantly evolving,” Clark said. “As I approach 60 years old, I am still finding new inspiration and trying out new things. One lifetime will not be enough to create all that I can dream of, but at least it has not been dull.”

The beds, chairs, tables, dressers, mirrors, cabinets, and other pieces in the exhibit take their inspiration from sources as diverse as the hand-hewn furniture of gauchos in the Patagonian wilderness, the finely detailed Japanese woodworking art of kumiko, the mandala-like botanical paintings of Vernon artist Margaret Shipman, and the illustrations of Dr. Seuss.

“Evolving Traditions” also features work by George Ainley, Jim Becker, Richard Bissell, David Boynton, Jason Breen, Erin English, Nick English, Chris Ericson, Bob Gasperetti, Erin Hanley, David Hurwitz, David Lewis, John Lomas, Pete E. Michelinie, George Sawyer, Margaret Shipman, and Shari Zabriskie.

“I appreciate the opportunity to showcase my work in a museum setting,” said Sawyer, of Woodbury. “I’ve always considered fine furniture to be akin to functional art, and this was a chance to embrace that and see where it might lead.”

Related events scheduled

BMAC will present two events in connection with the exhibit:

• A tour of woodworker Richard Bissell’s Putney workshop takes place on Sunday, Dec. 5, at 2 p.m.

• A lathe demonstration at Brattleboro’s HatchSpace on Wednesday, Jan. 12, at 5:30 p.m.

Register for both at brattleboromuseum.org.

The Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers is an association of master-level furniture makers dedicated to the promotion of quality craftsmanship, excellence in design, and the pursuit of artistic vision.

As described in a news release, the organization’s goal is “to increase public awareness and appreciation of this time-honored art, thereby expanding the market for handcrafted furniture and promoting the common interests of furniture makers in Vermont.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #640 (Wednesday, November 24, 2021). This story appeared on page C2.

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