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Our Newest Artisans: Andy Muth and Josh Gettings

Date added: 27-01-2010

There’s more than one way to look at this bad economy. In our case, the construction industry’s loss has been our gain. Our newest artisans here, Andy Muth and Josh Gettings, went looking for better ways to hone their craft when jobs in new construction started drying up last year, and thanks to Craigs List, they found their way to our Woodbridge shop last summer. Let’s meet them.

Andy Muth

Andy Muth

Andy graduated from George Mason University with a biology degree in 2005, but he had loved his shop and engineering classes in middle school and at Woodson High School in Fairfax, where he grew up. After a stint at the Nature Conservancy and a few years working in the remodeling industry, he says, “the hours [became] so light with the economy so bad, this was a steady job, and I’ve always been into building furniture.”

Andy primarily builds doors and drawers. Here, he slips a panel into what will be a drawer.

Andy primarily builds doors and drawers. Here, he slips a panel into what will be a drawer.

Working with wood had always been a hobby, he says, but “nothing like this. Nothing this high quality … That’s really why I’m here. I just love the craft.”

Andy applies glue to the dovetails on the drawer-front panel. “I’ve learned a lot about the machines. That’s a big part of it – once you learn the machines, you can go from there.”

Andy applies glue to the dovetails on the drawer-front panel. “I’ve learned a lot about the machines. That’s a big part of it – once you learn the machines, you can go from there.”

Another thing Andy loves is the fact that all the artisans here are able to use the shop machines for personal projects on their own time. They can buy their wood at cost and make whatever they want. “I made my girlfriend a jewelry box for Christmas. She loved it,” he says. “I want to do more personal projects in the future – that’s one of the great benefits.”

Josh Gettings

Josh Gettings

Josh moved down here from New Jersey in July, when his girlfriend got a great job with ExxonMobil. For him, it was an opportunity to move away from construction, which he started doing part time at age 14 and full time since he graduated from high school in 2000.

“I used to be a framer, and I wanted to get into the finishing aspect of carpentry,” he says. “This is a great place to do it, because they’re known for high-quality furniture.”

Parts for Linnaea cabinets and chairs are stacked next to Josh’s work table, where he does “a little bit of everything.”

Parts for Linnaea cabinets and chairs are stacked next to Josh’s work table, where he does “a little bit of everything.”

Before coming here, Josh had done “a little bit of trim work in framing buildings,” but like Andy, nothing like this. “I never worked with any of the machines,” he says. Yet the atmosphere in the shop is one where the seasoned artisans mentor and teach the junior ones.

Josh says he’s been impressed with how generous people are with their time and knowledge – even if they don’t work directly with him. “I can ask anybody outside the team and they’re more than willing to help,” he says. The craftsmen here work in teams of about five, where they all work together to build certain pieces of furniture. Josh’s team mainly builds dinner tables, chairs and desks.

An iron? Yup – one of the tricks Josh uses to get a small dent out of the wood is to iron it with a damp cloth, which puts moisture back into the wood and expands out the dent so the surface is smooth again.

An iron? Yup – one of the tricks Josh uses to get a small dent out of the wood is to iron it with a damp cloth, which puts moisture back into the wood and expands out the dent so the surface is smooth again.

Like Andy, Josh is using his newfound woodworking skills for personal endeavors. He’s currently building three Shinto stools for his home. The problem with that, of course, is that his girlfriend now wants to come to the showroom and make a list of all the other things she wants him to make. As far as problems go in this economy, however, we think that’s a good one to have.

New blogger at Hardwood Artisans

Date added: 20-01-2010

Jennifer Sergent, formerly of Washington Spaces, now blogging for Hardwood Artisans

I’m happy to introduce Jennifer Sergent, formerly of Washington Spaces magazine, as the newest addition to the Hardwood Artisans blogging team.

We here at Hardwood Artisans so admired Jennifer’s style and wit when she wrote a mini-feature on us in the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Spaces that when Spacesfolded late last year, we immediately approached her to write for us. She’ll bring a fresh perspective to the story behind Hardwood Artisans for your reading pleasure.

If you’ve read our two most recent blog entries, Our Fairfax Flagship is Open! and For the Love of Linnaea, then you’ve already been introduced to Jennifer’s writing. But if you’d like to read more, head on over to her own blog, DC by Design.

And please welcome Jennifer in the comments!

For the Love of Linnaea

Date added: 14-01-2010

One of the first things you see when you walk into the new Fairfax showroom is this sleek, mid-century modern bed and end tables:

Linnaea bed and nightstands

And this handsome chest just to the side:

Linnaea chest

They are from the new Linnaea collection, which has distinctly Swedish roots, considering the initial goal was to create a look that was “Danish Modern.”

“I was looking at plants for inspiration,” co-owner Mark Gatterdam says. He ran across the linnaea borealis, the national flower of Sweden.

The flower is named after the 18th-century Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, who invented the modern system for classifying plants and animals.

“I just kept coming back to this word,” Mark says. And it didn’t hurt that Marketing Director Alison Heath’s favorite coffee shop in her native San Luis Obispo, CA, is called Linnaea’s. And they both loved the organic roots of the word, which they tried to capture in the style of our first mid-century collection:

Linnaea sofa with custom bolsters

Linnaea sofa, chair and coffee table

Linnaea extension table and dining chairs

The craftsmen in the Woodbridge shop spent countless hours coming up with the perfect design prototypes for the Linnaea pieces. There’s even a Linnaea graveyard where the rejects are piled:

The Linnaea graveyard

The results are worth it – especially in the big-picture scheme of things, Mark says. “My vision was to re-position the organization,” he says. “What that meant was playing with the big boys, coming up with new product lines … Alison said we needed a mid-century modern thing. All I could remember was ugly parents’ furniture that was badly done from the ’70s, but there are some really cool ’40s and ’50s cutting-edge styles.

Co-owner Kevin Carlson with the Linnaea mirror frame

The customers seem to be happy too – especially all the scientists we get in our Rockville showroom who come from NIH, NASA, Walter Reed Army Medical Center – “and those rock lickers” from the National Geological Survey, Mark adds. They all recognize the Linnaea name.

The craftsmanship is evident in all the details of the Linnaea mirror.

“Several customers immediately knew what the reference was,” Mark says. “Linnaea was more recognizable than I had anticipated, which made us happy. In people’s minds, it’s organic. Other people just think it’s a nice word.”

Our Fairfax Flagship is Open!

Date added: 13-01-2010

Drive into the new Pender Village shopping center in Fairfax, and there it is, right next to the new Harris Teeter grocery store. We say this because our building permits were linked, and they were worried that little ol’ us wouldn’t be able to finish our work in time, and that we might be a drag on big ol’ them. Well tut tut, Harris Teeter, we were a month ahead of you, and our shelves are stocked with much prettier things:

The Parlor sofa, Parlor armchair and Bungalow rocking chair share the sunshine on our raised window display.

The Parlor sofa, Parlor armchair and Bungalow rocking chair share the sunshine on our raised window display.

Also in the window, the Craftsman chest and Nantucket bench form a quiet vignette with classic Shaker boxes.

Also in the window, the Craftsman chest and Nantucket bench form a quiet vignette with classic Shaker boxes.

We closed our Chantilly showroom to make way for the much bigger one (4,300 square feet) in closer-in Fairfax because 50 percent of our clientele comes from the Reston/Herndon/Fairfax area. “It made sense to move in for them,” Mark says.

Eleven months ago, Marketing Director Alison Heath sent a memo to our sales staff, outlining our vision for what the store should be: “It will go farther than we ever have in attempting to communicate our core messages – that we’re local, that we’re craftsmen, and that we’re quality. The idea is to bring the shop into the showroom.”

To inspire everyone, Alison created a “concept board” with assorted images meant to evoke the feeling we were after. (The living room in the central picture belongs to our general manager, Greg Gloor.)

The concept board

The concept board

Read on to see how that vision was realized.

(more…)

Bookcase buying for book lovers

Date added: 21-09-2009

It seems like whenever I see bookcases in a magazine, they always have more stuff on them than books. They’re usually very pretty. For example, this post by one of my favorite DC bloggers.

The problem is that such an artful arrangement might work for some people, but it would never work for me. I simply have too many books. See, like many of our customers, I am a book-a-holic. I love to read them, shop for them, browse them online. A life-long love affair with books is both a blessing and a curse.

If you’re not the kind of person who can arrange their books by color or intersperse them with vases and artfully placed shells and folk art either, this guide to buying bookcases is for you. Some of these steps might be a little rough so take a deep breath.

1)Get rid of some books. I like to do this with the TV or music on to distract me from the pain of parting. I use the following categories:

-Books I did not like

-Books I liked but probably would not read again

-Books I liked and will read over and over and reference books

-Books I have not read yet

2)Get rid of the books in the first two categories. A local used bookstore is great, but there aren’t as many of those about any more. I sell my books to Powell’s through their website and they give me store credit so I can get more books.

3)Put the books you have not read yet into another pile within easy reach of your bed, favorite chair or other favorite reading place. If you have not picked up a book in that pile within the next three months. You never will. Get rid of them and buy something you will read.

4)Put the books in the order that you like to store them (topic, alphabetical by author, your own system of classification).

5)Measure for total length, height and depth of books.

6)Now measure the length, height and depth of your space.

7)Bring these measurements into your chosen store.

Hardwood Artisans can build bookcases in any size and we have seven woods and lots of styles to choose from. If you want built-in bookcases, we can do that too. Just let us know what you need.

Happy reading!

Creativity in the Kitchen: Cinnamon Pecan Cucumber Bread

Date added: 20-08-2009

When I stated in this earlier entry that Mark gave me a ton of food, I really meant it. The sheer amount of cucumbers alone barely fit in my veggie crisper bin in my refrigerator! While I was on the baking kick, I decided that cucumber bread sounded just as delicious as cucumber muffins, and my dear sous chef/boyfriend was more than happy to help me prepare it.

Cinnamon Pecan Cucumber Bread

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups cucumber, peeled and pureed (though you could also grate them if you’re really feeling domestic)
3 cups white flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
Pecans, as desired (walnuts might be good, too)

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Fill loaf pans evenly. Bake at 325 degrees for 60 – 70 minutes. Makes 2 loaves.

Since I took the cucumber muffins to work with me, dear boyfriend took the bread to work with him. He reports that the bread was devoured with the morning coffee. There are also reports that the Spicy Peanut Butter Frosting of the cucumber muffins fame also makes a good spread for the bread.

If you make this, I’d love to hear how it turns out!

Bending wood (Plywood 101, part 2)

Date added: 24-07-2009

This is the second post in our series on lamination. For the first post, go here.

In the past year or so, we have been playing around with more curved forms. For years all of our curves have been cut from solid wood stock. Seldom have we ever bent wood, and certainly not on a production level.

With the introduction of the Linnaea collection, this has all changed. The entire line has various curves, and some bending needs to occur. One of the more challenging things was the seat on the Linnaea Chair. We wanted a curved seat, but not of solid wood. Greg, our Founder and lead chair maker, came up with a two piece bendable plywood seat that follows the curve of the brace below it. It really is the perfect solution for this application. It is both comfortable and good looking.

What is bendable plywood? It is laminated ply that is not cross laminated. The layers of ply are all oriented in the same direction, making it easy to bend either across the grain or with the grain. This is basically a one directional bend. People have said this is not good for structural use, but once we have glued up two layers on each other into a curve, it is pretty much solid as a rock. One brand name for this is Wiggle Wood.

Another kind of bendable stock a kerf-cut type, where you can buy plywood that has been cut 80% of the way through on the back side at 1/8” increments. This allows you to do pretty tight radii, but there is no real structure to the stock, even after gluing. Assorted brand names and various styles are: Econokore, Flex Green, Kerfkore, and Timberflex.

In our third post in this series, we’ll discuss how we do curved bends and laminations using only solid wood.

Closet clutter remediation

Date added: 22-07-2009

If you’re anything like me, folding fitted sheets is pretty much a horrible, traumatic proposition. Okay, perhaps not traumatic, but at least irritating.

Here’s a great guide to folding a fitted sheet that will leave your closet, blanket chest or other storage free from balled-up, badly folded sheets.

I just don’t understand kids these days

Date added: 10-07-2009

Yesterday my 23-year-old marketing coordinator was reading this article from the Washington Post about generational differences and how members of different generations can adjust their expectations and communication styles to get along better in the workplace.

I had my own experience with inter-generational communication break-down a few jobs ago. I had this very bright young assistant who nevertheless wasn’t particularly detail oriented. One day when we were sitting on the floor of our office stuffing name badges into name badge holders, I pointed out that she had misspelled the person’s name and asked her to fix it. She did, but only after rolling her eyes at me and arguing that she didn’t see why it was so important.

A few weeks later, I attended a seminar by a Marriott executive that explained why that interaction had gone so badly. See, certain members of the youngest generation currently in the workplace have never really been criticized. They all got trophies even if they didn’t win. Self-esteem is paramount. (All according to generational theorists of course.)

What it all came down to was that if I sandwiched criticisms with praise, I got a lot farther with her than I did by just giving her the criticism. In that instance, I should have said, “I really appreciate how quickly you finished printing those nametags. I noticed that a couple of them were misspelled so if you could fix them that would be great. And by the way, I heard how you handled that irate caller earlier and I was impressed with how well you kept your cool.” It didn’t take a lot of effort on my part to totally reinvent my relationship with her and now we’re still in touch after several years.

Of course, any discussion of generalizations, including generational ones, are always subject to alteration for individual characteristics. When my marketing coordinator and I were looking at the generational profiles at the end of the article, she and I both thought some of the markers of our generations (Gen Y and Gen X respectively) weren’t entirely accurate.

Read the article and let us know what you think.

Collection or clutter?

Date added: 07-07-2009

I’m as guilty as anyone. My grandmother had these great glasses from the 1960s. I have fond memories of sitting next to her while she sipped vodka martinis and we watched Jeopardy together. I was stuck with a Shirley Temple and I never got the answers right, but when I saw those glasses at a flea market a few years ago, I couldn’t help but snap them up.

Nearly everyone has collections of things that mean something to them now or meant something to them once. I think there’s still several boxes of Barbie paraphernalia sitting around at my parents’ house somewhere.Ten years ago I thought that stuff was important. I’m pretty sure I don’t any more. I guess I should call mom and dad and tell them to give it all away.

Via a website called Unclutterer, I discovered a very funny man named Marc Sotkin, who has a website called Boomer Alley. Marc used to write for Laverne & Shirley, Golden Girls and Gary Shandling and, well, you can tell when you watch his videos.

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