Simply Beautiful Furniture.

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The story of sycamore

Date added: 12-02-2009




For years and years, our founder, Greg Gloor, worked with a lumber mill to purchase quarter-sawn sycamore. Above, that’s a picture of what quarter-sawn sycamore looks like at its best. Between us and another manufacturer in Vermont, the mill hoped to be able to sell enough of this not-very-popular wood to make drying it in quantity a profitable operation.

However, sycamore is hard to dry. It is prone to what is called “blue stain”—an infection in the wood that cause the surface of the board to turn, essentially, blue—and a couple of loads of stained wood killed the market. Stained wood of this type becomes virtually useless, as it isn’t pretty enough for anything but painting. The mill couldn’t get the prices they needed as a result and stopped the production of quarter-sawn sycamore.

We went through a period of time trying to cobble together enough stock from other suppliers to keep using it as a secondary wood in our drawers and an accent wood on other pieces, but only about five percent of the mills in the entire country quarter-saw lumber, making it very difficult to secure the quantity we need at a price we could afford.

We tried valiantly, but in the end, we had to give up. Ash is cut by many more mills and is competitively priced so finally, the Board decided to make the switch. We’d been phasing out the sycamore-sided pieces over the last year or so, but it has been taking too long so we finally decided to sell them off all at once.

We’ve also got a few pieces that have discontinued fabrics on them or that have been in the showrooms for a while. Click over to the floor model list and see what treasures you can unearth for your home!

VIDA and the lifetime value of a customer

Date added: 09-02-2009

It’s not often that I run across a company that I would love to work for. In fact, it took me almost ten years of working various places before I found my spiritual home at Hardwood Artisans.

Today I read about VIDA, a fitness company with three locations in the DC metro area, none near me all the way out here in the suburbs. This is a company that gets it, probably because they have a CEO who gets it–he has a passion for working out. I can relate. I’m a bit of a workout fanatic myself. I love to play softball, have had personal trainers at various points and really, truly enjoy working out.

To be honest, I don’t so much mind that my gym focuses on selling cheap memberships, locking people into long-term contracts and banking on the fact that most of them will work out for a month then never come back. It means that the gym isn’t crowded (yes, the resolution crowd has already dispersed), but it’s also not terribly honest. The gym knows they make more money when people don’t come back.

But VIDA does the opposite. By basing optimal profit levels on a certain (lower) number of memberships sold and focusing on giving those members great experiences, they have created a tremendously loyal following of people who love to go there and increasingly put other aspects of their lives under VIDA’s control (nutrition, laundry, spa services). It’s called the “lifetime value of a customer” and it’s something that not enough businesses focus on.

Even though the reporter focused on the business aspects of VIDA’s model, there’s a moral aspect as well. When you sell to someone who you know isn’t coming back, you’re not doing that person a service. When you sell a membership (or a product) to someone with the express purpose of making sure that they love it so much that they absolutely have to come back, you’re adding something to that person’s life.

We do the same. When a customer who has come to us before comes back, not only are we able to provide increasingly good service, we’re developing a real, human relationship. And what’s great about working here is that I can sit around all day thinking about how to offer better service instead of how to make more money. That’s good for everyone.

Now, off to the gym!

On A Whim

Date added: 09-02-2009

Imagine my surprise when catching up on my blog reading over the weekend, when I saw the post on Pure Style Home about On A Whim, an antique mall in Lucketts, Virginia.

This picture is the booth of our very own Glen Redmon, who does presentation and sales for Hardwood Artisans in addition to being the proprietor of the best looking antique booth in the area.

He’s got a bunch of cute things out there so next time you’re out near Lucketts, definitely take a look.

Martinis

Date added: 07-02-2009

I read a very interesting article in The Washington Post by Jason Wilson about the origins and evolution of the martini. While the subject of martinis is not top of mind for me, I found this all very insightful and so, so true.

My father is one of those who began drinking gin martinis in college, you know, back in the 1950’s, smoking a pipe, wearing a coat with the patches on the elbows. It was the rage of the time. Later, when I was becoming of legal age, I fondly remember mixing him drinks where I would splash vermouth over the top only, or just say the words over the glass.

I remember sitting around with my father on one of the many fishing trips to Chincoteague Island, VA. The day was done, and we were regaling in our daily pack of lies, otherwise known as the fish stories of the day. He and I sat around drinking “martinis” made his way…no vermouth. I thought I would die. Talk about harsh.

In the article, Derek Brown says “when people finally experience a martini with unique and artisanal ingredients, it makes a world of difference”. The whole point of the article is that we Americans have somehow managed to stray from the original composition and intention of the martini.

I think that the furniture world has managed to stray from tried and true practices. When I show people a dovetail or mortise and tenon joint, they are just amazed this sort of joint is still created. The concept of wood from the trees stops people for a moment. When I say walnut, I don’t mean a walnut color, I mean a walnut tree – as furniture makers for centuries have intended it to be. So mix a real drink, and get some real furniture.

Etsy Love for your Valentine

Date added: 04-02-2009

If you’ve already gotten her a Hardwood Artisans jewelry box, check out some other handmade gifts.


DreamsandJewelry from San Ramon, California

Block Party Press from Baltimore, Maryland (LOCAL!)

Lawn Fawn Cards from Los Angeles, California

hijirik studio from Brooklyn, New York

Remember to make it a handmade holiday!

Torpedo Factory in Alexandria

Date added: 30-01-2009


A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune to visit the Torpedo Factory in Old Town Alexandria. I didn’t realize just how much astonishing talent is in our area. When most people think of DC, they think politics, lobbying, defense contractors, maybe tech or biotech if they’re in the know. I’ve never heard DC described as a great artistic Mecca, but I was truly impressed by the quality of some of the work at the Torpedo Factory. Here are a few of my favorites:

First is Nancy Reinke, a painter and print-maker. Her paintings seem very introspective, but her woodcuts are the real standouts. Would you believe that the above is a woodcut?

Next, Matthew Harwood, whose work just literally cannot be appreciated online so you will just have to visit and see it in person. These extraordinarily detailed drawings and watercolors are three-dimensional. Rather than being a quaint conceit like some I’ve seen though, these really jump off the page, I think due to their stunning level of detail. He’s draftsman-like in his precision.

Carol M. Dupre might not be to everyone’s taste, but if you enjoy M.C. Escher or the collage art of Dave McKean, you should really check out her studio. Again, these have to be seen in person to be believed.

Finally, something completely different: the Enamelists Gallery. A collective of fifteen different artists, this gallery features jewelry, wall hangings, bowls, trays and lots of decorative enamelwork. If you’re into color, the colors of enamel just can’t beat. None of the pictures on the site really picture how wonderful this gallery is.

And our own Mark Gatterdam’s mom, Barbara Gatterdam, has stoneware on display in the Scope Gallery. Such a talented family!

The weekend is coming so get out and take in some of DC’s local art scene. The Torpedo Factory is a great place to start. Just wear comfy shoes because you’ll want to stay all day.

Luddites Anyone

Date added: 28-01-2009

I got into this debate with the twenty something, now officially thirty something, marketing director of ours (Hugs and kisses, Alison). Silly really, but it typifies this ongoing …well, let’s just call it a difference in the way we look at life. She was paying a bill through the company of hers with a fist full of cash. I was curious why she’d choose to use up all her cash rather than pay with a check or some other arrangements with the accounting people. Then it began. The obvious was pointed out…just go to the ATM. Duh! When I pointed out that I did not have an ATM card, and had less interest of getting an ATM card, and that I prefer to go inside the bank and hand my transactions to an actual person, with an actual pulse, I was accused of being a Luddite.

Curt, one of my partners, quickly tried to intervene, only to confess that he too shared my lack of a banking card, and preferred dealing with someone with a pulse rather than something that beeps and burps at you. He took the next barrage of scrutiny, only to slink off slightly bruised. Thanks for taking one for the team, Curt. Us Luddites got to stick together, don’t you know.

The other day we had an oops in the shop, and the solution was to shave the face of the entire cabinet back about ¼”. Not a difficult thing to do in theory, but to actually do it is very difficult. The only way to really do this was by hand…enter Kevin Parker, one of our craftsmen. Kevin has a real passion for hand planes, and all things in the craft that are old timey. So, Kevin was call upon, and he proudly marched over and whittled away on the face of this cabinet for an hour or so, successfully saving both the cabinet and hours of additional time.

Think about this for a minute. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment in our shop, and the best solution to this and many other problems was a $25 hand plane. Who’s the Luddite now, Miss marketing director smarty pants? I’ll bet this internet thing is just a passing fancy, too.

Woodworking and other talents

Date added: 26-01-2009

I’m lucky to be surrounded by such talented people. Woodworkers, yes (genius, amazing woodworkers). But some of our genius, amazing woodworkers do other things as well. Take my friend Jason, who I worked with last year on the development of the Linnaea collection.

Not only can he build a gorgeous cabinet, he does wood turning and makes chain mail. When I saw his new Etsy store a few weeks ago, I immediately fell in love with a pair of chain mail earrings and today Jason was nice enough to bring them to me. It seemed sort of silly to mail them when we work in the same building!

Earrings by Sidewinder Studio

I feel much the same way about my new earrings that I do about my new file cabinet, which will be ready any day now. These were made just for me by someone I like, who likes me. It’s so rare to get that in a commercial transaction, but it’s a feeling I like and want more often.

This is part of why I’ve recently decided to buy handmade goods whenever I can — both for myself and for presents. Sure, sometimes it’s not possible (handmade iPod, probably not). But somehow my life feels enriched, just like we hope our furniture makes our customers feel.

Etsy clay love

Date added: 23-01-2009

It’s genuinely amazing to me just how many talented people there are on Etsy. I had always loved going to galleries and local stores like Appalachian Spring and Artcraft to see handmade items by local (and not so local) artists. This past weekend I also made a visit to the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, which I will have to do a post about soon.

That said, another entire world opens up online. This Christmas I bought handmade ornaments for a friend of mine from a woman (Jennifer Orme) in the UK. I just never would have found her without the internet. She makes gorgeous jewelry too. I’m sure I’ll be forced to indulge soon.

Here are some other very talented artists on Etsy working in clay.


Element Clay Studio, Ceramics by Heather Knight


Ceramic coasters, LMNOProducts by Lauren McMahon


Judi Tavill, Ceramic Artist of Handmade Pottery, Vessels, and Objects

With all the wonderful handmade pottery out there, I am seriously reconsidering my decision to continue buying dishes from Crate & Barrel.

Value Added

Date added: 20-01-2009

We had a lovely article written about us by Washington Post columnist Tom Heath yesterday (nope, no relation). Pick a copy of the Post or read it online: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/washbizblog/2009/01/value_added_12.html

If you don’t regularly read the “Value Added” column in the Post, I highly recommend it. We really enjoyed working with Tom on the article.

I also want to thank our loyal customers for their comments over the past few days. We love you too!

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