Furniture making is a man’s world, baby…….Unless your Aurora Sylvia and her all girls team.
Aurora Sylvia (far left, above) and her all girl team break the stereotype that only men are woodworkers. Her team consists of Hilda Berrum (second from left), Angela Cruz (third from left), and Isabel Abrego (far right). When asked to describe the women on her team, Aurora said, “They are all very nice, wonderful people.” She went on to describe each of the craftswomen individually.
Hilda is very serious but intelligent and a good worker, Isabel is very good at walking furniture – fitting drawers, and inserting parts, and Angela is good on machines.
Aurora has been working at Hardwood Artisans for eight years now and met her husband here. She is known around Hardwood Artisans for her motherly disposition, as well as her precision on machines.
In the past Aurora brought in lunches for workers, and to this day still has a passion for cooking. She says that her favorite thing to make is tamales.
Aurora is the mother of three, having raised her children for many years on her own, Aurora says that it can be difficult balancing raising children and having a full time job, especially when her kids were younger.
Many employees at Hardwood Artisans describe Aurora as a sweet, serious, and hard worker. When asked what her hobbies are, she blurted out with a smile “I don’t have time for hobbies!”.
Aurora, hopes to learn how to make more pieces and continue learning different skills. It is obvious that Aurora and her all girl team are an asset to Hardwood Artisans and will continue to break the stereotype that only men make good woodworkers.
“I wish I had the title of master craftsman,” says Sergio Zepeda, Hardwood Artisans’ craftsman. He desires that moniker. After 10 years of being a professional furniture maker, Sergio says he is still pursuing that goal. Think about that for a minute.
Sergio, like most of our cabinetmakers, is a perfectionist. He works to create the perfect piece, but in woodworking, there is always something less than perfect. Wood is organic, natural, and unpredictable. He is pictured next to our popular Simply Beautiful Secretary, a piece that requires numerous skill sets to craft.
Along the lines of his perfection, when asked what his hobbies are, Sergio says he likes to go to the gym, but then adds that his goal is to get to 10% body fat, weigh so-and-so amount, and be able to lift such-and-such amount of weight. He likes to work in specifics.
Conversely, he loves to cook, which was evident at our recent Lemonade Social where he was one of our chefs (right before he assembled a cabinet for demonstration!). He also has recently picked up fishing as a hobby. He does these things to balance the perfectionist inside.
Sergio is the father of two boys, 6 and 9, and has been married since 2005. His wife, Olga, lived in California previously. They met when Sergio went out to California to see family. After that, Olga received the first email Sergio ever sent, which he signed off as “your future husband”. Many more emails later, he convinced her to come to Virginia. They were married 8 days later. Now this is a man who knows what he wants.
More contradictions in his world: Sergio has his “famous” sleeveless shirts he wears pretty much every day, which he has made custom for himself; His house looks like a self proclaimed miniature Hardwood Artisans showroom, but he does not show it off; He gets very intimidated when starting a custom order, but he loves the challenge, and he always works through the problems, questions, and concerns; He says that he learns from everyone, even the “new guys”.
A great craftsman once said that ‘the measure of a craftsman was not by how many mistakes he makes, but by how well he hides them’. If we can get past the idea that anything on earth is truly perfect, I think we can honor Sergio with the title of Master Craftsman.
Hardwood Artisans craftsman, Greg Smith, has been with Hardwood Artisans off and on again for about 15 years. The 43 year old craftsman grew up in the Alexandria, VA area, and attended T.C. Williams High School.
Greg works on various dining tables, chairs, and custom projects that require the occasional “thinking outside of the box”. Greg says that his favorite piece to make is the Shinto Stool, because he likes the “obstacles” the piece presents. Greg began working for Hardwood Artisans in 1993 because his uncle worked here and thought it would be good for Greg to learn a craft.
Greg spends his spare time doing oil paintings and playing video games. His goal is to merge oil paintings with woodworking, replacing art glass panes with oil paintings. At work, he is a little, shall we say, sloppy with the work areas, but at home he is what several friends describe as a “neat freak”. These contradictions in life are seemingly typical for Greg. Ultimately, his goals surround a more metaphysical ideology, of serenity.
Greg has mastered mortise and tenon work, as evident in the chairs pictured. The split back splat was his design. He has several unique pieces that he has designed and crafted for himself and family members. We have several photos of his work throughout the organization. We featured Greg Smith here because we consider him a unique asset to Hardwood Artisans. Feel free to interpret that any way you like. As we like to say around here, if you are looking for normal, go someplace else.
Greg Gloor retires this month after 37 years of creating Hardwood Artisans. I am sure it is a difficult thing to let go of. On the other hand, he has probably seen enough, and is ready to move on to something different. He is already enrolled in college classes!
I consider Greg the “Steve Jobs” of Hardwood Artisans. Brilliant, visionary, creative, difficult, compassionate, unrelenting, patient, generous, motivating. I suspect anyone who can create something this great must have all these attributes, good and bad.
I can honestly say that Greg is one of the smartest individuals I have ever met. Many people would agree with me about that statement. But you don’t build a business like Hardwood Artisans by just being smart. It takes so much more.
Greg has taught each of the current owners what he can about what it takes to run this company. Each of the six partners represents a part of Greg’s skills and knowledge. Curt took the financial and technical. Ricardo took the general managing and some design. John Hilgren took the very technical. John Buss took the maintaining and improving. Kevin took the day to day grind of getting the production job done. And I took the designing and branding of the company. Essentially, it now takes six men to do what Greg did alone years ago.
It is difficult to express the gratitude the partners have toward this man. Personally, he has taught me a great deal, and more than just furniture design. We have been through some of the best and worst times. We have shared booms and busts, weddings, births, and deaths. We have loved and hated, sometimes at the same time. If you have ever had the privilege of working with Greg, you know what I mean. Perfection does not come about seamlessly. It is the hard road taken that results in the complete fulfillment of an idea, a design, a need. This is Greg’s legacy.
Lois Gloor is the wife of Greg, the founder of Hardwood Artisans. She is retiring this month, along with Greg. Some of you know her, but many of our customers are unaware of her contributions to the organization over the past 37 years. Part of this reason is because many of her functions have been behind the scenes. Bookkeeping, technical support, and for the past 15 years or so, photographer and graphics work.
Lois has been responsible for all those pictures you see in the Washington Post Magazine and photo albums in the showrooms, as well as all the price sheets we hand out. So, you see, she has been out of site because she has often been on the “other end” of the camera.
Photography has become a passion for Lois, and she plans on doing more in retirement. She is selling the company her old camera, trading up to the newest and greatest model! Being more involved with the raising of grandchildren, travel, and just doing all those things that time would not allow due to a busy work schedule will fill the days.
Lois’ contributions to the organization have been huge. We hope to continue the work she has so carefully crafted, and continue the legacy of excellence. If you have time this month, send her a note – Lois@hardwoodartisans.com.
Ken Schell, The Redneck Dali Lama
Our dear friend and Rockville manager Ken Schell retired this past week after over 22 years of service. Like many of you, I will miss my weekly doling of his “pearls of Redneck wisdom”, as I liked to call it.
A self-admitted K-mart kind of guy with an eye for style, scale, fashion, and aesthetics, Ken was quite the contradiction. I loved the way he could say what sounded like the stupidest thing, and then make you see why it made sense. I know many of our customers will miss his peculiar strategy for figuring out what their actual needs were.
It is tough to write nice things about Ken without coming across as sounding critical about him. On the contrary, I have a tremendous respect for Ken, and am grateful to have known him. Funny, light-hearted, and able to put the correct perspective on most situations, everyone at Hardwood Artisans will miss him dearly.
Black marks occur on wood furniture when water penetrates the woods finish. Our furniture is predominantly an oil finish, and so these instructions are specifically catered toward Danish Oil Finished pieces only. Lacquer finished furniture requires a different approach. In the case of any veneer topped tables, extreme caution should be used. Hardwood Artisans tables are all solid wood tops, and so these instructions are exclusive to our products. Viewers should use great care if following my instructions for other manufactured tables.
We have a customer who has owned this table for about 10 years. A planter was placed on the table, and, of course, it leaked. The metal from the planter reacted with the table top, resulting in a rather large black stain on the wood. The customer tried to sand out the stain, but these stains tend to run pretty deep into the wood, so sanding is generally not a very good option, at least not as the initial solution.
The best way to deal with a black stain is to use chemicals, Oxalic Acid, specifically. It is an organic compound that performs as bleach in the applications we use it in. Oxalic acid will neutralize and bleach the black stain from wood. It is used heavily in the marine industry where water and wood are in constant contact.
Once the stain is neutralized and bleached, we still have to repair the table. We have introduced a lot of water to the top, and the table will require a light (but thorough) sanding and a fresh application of Danish Oil. That said, this table will look brand new when we are done with it. The true value of solid wood furniture – repairable and renewable. Furniture for life.
When we designed the build for the new showroom in Shirlington, about two and a half years ago, there was a plan to incorporate a kitchen into the floor plan. We put in plumbing rough-in’s, and wired up 220v for a kitchen stove. Well, the best laid plans, right? We are now in the process of finishing up that kitchen project. We will be writing about the progress over the next few weeks.
We are using 3/4″ thick hardwood plywood with finished birch wood veneer on both sides. We chose ash wood with an espresso stain as the face frame, curly maple Tansu panels with a red aniline dye stain, and left the birch plywood natural inside the cases.
I have spent about 10 days figuring out what cases were made, and what needs to be made to complete the job. Today is Thursday. There are several things involving tongue-in-groove construction that need done. Below are a series of pictures of me cutting the joints. The machine in the pictures is called a shaper, which is basically an overgrown table router with a feed tank.
In a day or two, after the glue sets and the parts are trimmed to final sizes, I will have some pictures of kitchen cabinets in various states of completion. Stay tuned.
Starting a new job anywhere is both exciting and somewhat intimidating especially for a recent college graduate; but Hardwood Artisans’ fun, fast paced environment has helped make my move to the “real world” an easy transition.
My name is Erin Gallagher; I am 22 years old and I am the new marketing coordinator at Hardwood Artisans. I am originally from Richmond but have recently relocated to Fairfax. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the traffic up here.
I graduated this past May from Virginia Tech, GO HOKIES!, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Communication and Spanish. I had gone into college thinking that I wanted to be a news anchor but after working various internships I realized I loved graphical design, photography, and video editing which led me into marketing. I’m just a video nerd that enjoys any creative project I can get my hands.
I am assuming the job of Lorelei Hillgren, who decided to go and get herself a college education of her own and become a cop (sorry, …..ahem….., Police Officer). She is also the daughter of one of the partners, so she has been associated with the organization literally since birth. Large shoes to fill. My first week was nothing less than high intensity and fast paced. I started working for the company one week before our biggest event of the year, the 7th annual Lemonade Social.
The first week consisted of meetings, online marketing, and ironing out details for the event. Though most of my week consisted of shadowing the current marketing coordinator and created social media graphics, I was able to view all of the details that went into preparing and executing the event. I was able to mainly observe the event and see what aspects of the event our customers responded best to, and what aspects of the event needed further development for the following year.
The entire week leading up to the Lemonade Social, Mark had shared, “We don’t only sell furniture, we sell an experience.” Curt, another partner here at Hardwood Artisans describes it as, “creating a memory”. This ideology was solidified at the Lemonade Social when I saw how each of the sales people interacted with customers; this varied from shop tours and demonstrations to general conversation between employees and customers. Many employees have created relationships with customers that span over the years, and I witnessed their relationships during the Lemonade Social.
Through observing this event I have a much better understanding and a greater appreciation of how this organization functions and look forward to continually learning new things. Mark brought me on specifically to provide a new perspective to marketing. So, with that, over the next few months keep an eye out for a little different look from Hardwood Artisans. I might be the youngest but I’ll show you I know my stuff, talk to you later….
For about two years, my manager in Shirlington, Larry Northrop, has been trying to convince me that we need yet a fifth wall bed system. For about two years I resisted……okay, I finally gave in. Now, keep in mind that I didn’t think his idea was a bad one. I resisted because I knew we were talking about 300 hours of design and engineering time. I wanted nothing to do with this project, already having several jobs in the organization. Instead, in his perfect tenaciousness, Larry found his next “victims”.
Larry gained a lot of interest and enthusiasm within the organization and talked a lot about the idea with many customers. Between Larry, Greg (the founder), and Curt Smay (my partner), they worked on this project for about 5 months off and on. We premiered it at our Lemonade Social, where there seemed to be a lot of interest.
The idea is that you have a sofa (loveseat sized really), with your bed right behind. This arrangement literally doubles a rooms capacity, making it perfect for efficiency apartments. Take the wedges off, pull the bed down, and you are ready to go to bed. The display shelf (shown with a yellow flower in a vase full of water) will pivot in perfect parallel to the ground. Nothing needs removed from the shelf. When I look at it, I see an engineering headache that was solved. Imagine a wooden object that weighs 80 pounds and moves 7 feet out on a pivot into a room like a feather. Curt actually had to design (and have made) the metal arms that allow for this movement because they just don’t exist. And yes, it took every bit of 300 hours to figure out.
The design is such that the bed lays over the seat of the sofa. The result is a bed height taller than any of our other wall beds. I have to admit that I like it, a lot. Curt and Greg did a great job executing Larry’s vision.
Right now, we are busy cleaning up the cases and applying the finish. We will be showing this new bed in our Shirlington store within the next few weeks.
For more information about this wall bed, or any of our four other beds, call any of our stores.
Furniture Care and Repair Demonstration
Presented by Co-Owner
Join us in our Rockville Showroom on Saturday, October 13th. Our finishing expert Mark Gatterdam will demonstrate how to efficiently maintain your hardwood furniture and handle the mishaps of life such as dents, scratches and much more.
We recommend you bring in your most challenging questions and concerns, or even a piece of furniture. There will be hors d’oeuvres & refreshments for you to enjoy.
12266K Rockville Pike,
Rockville, MD 20852
Questions? Email Julianne@hardwoodartisans.com
Our customers are so often the exact inspiration needed for a new standard product. Not only are you creative but you are very good designers – no wonder our standard line keeps growing. This story starts when co-owner Mark Gatterdam met Aaron and Catherine in our showroom.
Aaron and Catherine have always had a fine appreciation for watching things unfold. Aaron told us, “We have always appreciated furniture and viewed it more as functional art as opposed to things-to-put-stuff-on.”
Their house was built in the 1940’s by Aaron’s great grandfather for his Grandfather and Grandmother to live in. His ever so handy Grandfather also built houses for his three daughters as well as another one for himself. I’ll let him tell the rest of the story:
“They are all located in Baton Rouges’ Garden District Area adjacent to Louisiana State University. Upon my grandmother’s passing Catherine and I decided to purchase the home from my dad and my aunt. We felt strongly about keeping the house in the family; four of the five houses are still owned by relatives. Our house is very small by today’s standards, just under 1,000 SF.
Catherine and I purchased it in rough condition. We are on the tail end of completing a massive renovation. Because the house is so small everything that goes in must be considered very carefully. Too much of anything, or anything large and bulky, or the wrong color will weigh the rooms down and cause them to appear very crowded and cluttered. Catherine and I have considered furniture very carefully. We drew a lot of inspiration from pieces on display at the Festival of the Arts in Laguna Beach, California.
Catherine and I try to make the festival each year while visiting her grandparents on the west coast. We have been considering furniture to fill this house for over three years… we don’t get in a hurry.
We visited galleries when traveling on vacation and business. I even considered building some of my own pieces (believe it or not I can hold my own in the shop.) What initially drew me to Hardwood Artisans was the use of solid hard woods and the oil finish. No one does this for production… are y’all crazy? Catherine and I chose standard pieces from the Hardwood Artisans portfolio.
We thought we would push you guys just a little bit with the idea of incorporating a more “unique” headboard. It wasn’t until I saw the Motus Desk at the Culpeper shop that realized exactly what you guys are capable of. We were hoping that you all could understand our broad design ideas and then use your talents and ideas to create a design that matched us. That is exactly what you all did. To me that is infinitely more difficult and personal then simply taking a customer’s design and building it according to spec. We certainly appreciate the human element and emotional labor that you and your design team have incorporated so far. We cannot wait to see the final product.
As far as names… We’ll defiantly throw one in the hat for consideration… We’ll need to sleep on it. I’ll let you know our vote.
Here are a few pictures of the final bed!