For museums or your living room
New Hampshire Furniture Masters put tradition on display
By Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
In 18th-century New Hampshire, master craftsmen created furniture from the surrounding woods by hand, one item at a time. That skill hasn’t disappeared. Eleven years ago, six craftsmen created the New Hampshire Furniture Masters Association, which now claims a membership of two dozen.
“Beyond Tradition: New Works by the New Hampshire Furniture Masters” exhibits about 30 pieces available at their annual juried auction in October. The show is open at the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord now and will move to the New Hampshire Institute of Art at the end of July.
The masters produce several forms and styles from Shaker, early American and neo-classical to contemporary and art furniture, such as Jon Brooks pieces. Brooks, of New Boston, has furniture in Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American Art, and the Currier Museum of Art.
“For many of us, the furniture masters show and auction is our main venue,” said David Lamb of Canterbury, a founder. Some have their own showrooms or show in Boston, New York or with the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, and sell to out-of-state clients.
“We want local folk to be aware of the kind of work being done in New Hampshire,” Lamb said. “It’s been documented that New Hampshire has a very high concentration of craftsmen,” Lamb said.
Three Masters plus Andrew Spahr, the curator at the Currier Museum of Art, jury the auction.
Most of the work is done on commission, with many pieces ranging between $3,000 and $8,000, Lamb said.
Clients can choose to work with a master to create a custom piece to suit their taste and space. It can take a couple months to finish simple tables to a year and a half for a complex desk, he said. Details like carving, inlay work and finishing are “very timeconsuming.”
If a client prefers, the master can submit the piece to the jury for the auction. If it fetches a price higher than what the master and client agreed upon, it’s sold to the highest bidder and the master makes a copy for the patron. Masters will make duplicates of most of their pieces if commissioned.
“There’s a great deal of ... personal interest in the success of a piece or they feel such an attachment they want to make sure it comes home with them, too,” Lamb said. Patrons “really fall in love with the process.” However, the masters are now opting to do more of their own design for the auction, Lamb said.
Income from a silent auction of small works at the opening reception Thursday, July 13, as well as previous to the October live auction supports the Prison Outreach Program and the Furniture Masters’ new studio-based learning program, a three-year “apprenticeship.”.
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