Sustainability

We talk about sustainability, and what we as individuals do to reduce our carbon footprint. I recycle heavily, I live in a small house, drive a Smart Car, and otherwise re-use or re-purpose many things. Call it thrifty, cheap, or conscientious, but I do my small part. I’m able to do more with the company, and we do. Our sustainability position is pretty strong.

As time marches forward, I find myself coveting the past. By this I mean that the things that worked for me years ago seem to have proven themselves over the test of time, and I find that I come across as “old timey” when talking to the newer generations.

The fact is Hardwood Artisans makes solid wood furniture using old fashioned joinery. It works, even if it is an antiquated system using old time tools. I mean, really, when was the last time you saw someone break out a hand plane? Talk about old fashioned…

Think about it. A tree takes in carbon and holds it until it burns or rots in the woods. This carbon is then released back into the environment. By using the tree in the form of furniture, we trap the carbon inside. Well, at least for the life of the piece.

Architect Michael Greene elaborated on this idea when discussing the idea of wooden skyscrapers in a TED video linked below. Greene makes a tremendous case for why we should be using wood instead of concrete or steel to erect these structures. His argument coincides and supports my personal philosophy on lumber being used in a sustainable manner. He also provides compelling statistics regarding demand in the future for housing, overpopulation, homelessness, and the overall shift in living environments.

In tandem to the Greene video, I am reading Dan Brown’s book “Inferno”, a story that revolves around the overpopulation of the planet and some apocalyptic plague purposefully placed to offset this problem. I won’t elaborate because I don’t want to give anything away, but sufficed to say that it gets you thinking.

A chain of unrelated events over the past month have gotten me to look at what we do at Hardwood Artisans with a fine tooth comb. Ken, Greg, and Lois’ retirement, Syria, Michael Greene’s video, recent disputes over climate change have all got me wondering about our position, and with that consideration, I find myself digging in deeper to the roots of this organization that I know will last. Take care of the customer, build a quality product, conduct ourselves in a manner that contributes to the greater good.

I Made This: Greg Smith

greg s (2)

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.

I Made This: Greg Smith

greg s (2)

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.

Retirement

Retirement blog pic

Greg Gloor

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


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

Ken (Left) Dennis (Right)

Ken (Left) Dennis (Right)

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.

-Mark Gatterdam

New Kid On The Block

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….

Sofa Wall Bed

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. 

The Baton Rouge Bed

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.

bed sketch

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.

Aaron

Here are a few pictures of the final bed!

What is a Penny Theater?

I was working in our Shirlington showroom a few months ago when I received a rather odd phone call.  One of our previous customers was entering to win a grant from the American Physical Society.  This was not a typical type of phone call.

He was entering the grant with the help of his family to win money to build a new, improved Penny Theater for the Noyes Children’s Library Foundation and was hoping we would help.  I told him I was interested but I did not have a clue what a Penny Theater was… do you?

Long story short the Noyes Children’s Library Foundation and this wonderful family use the Penny Theater to teach children all kinds of lessons.  The theater is small enough to be carried from one place to another yet large enough to host a whole play on it using small caricatures.

I and the rest of Hardwood Artisans believe education very important.  If you are learning the mathematics of building hardwood furniture, why the sky is blue or the technique of social marketing it is important to keep on learning.  I knew Hardwood Artisans had to help with this great project.  I knew we could build an enhanced, updated an perfect Penny Theater.  Here is what an older one looks like:

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A Hidden Gem – The Culpeper Airport. Located Right behind our Shop

When we first moved into our new shop in Culpeper I kept hearing about the airport behind our shop.  There was so much vegetation (and snakes) behind the shop it was difficult to see.  I have to be honest I didn’t think much about it.

While I have had the pleasure of getting to know people in Culpeper the kind people at Culpeper Airport reached out to us and offered 20 free airplane rides at our Lemonade Social.  What a wonderful offer!  You can sign up for a ride by clicking here.

I went over to the airport this week and had the opportunity to take a tour.  I am still amazed and delighted at the neat treasures the airport has to show off.  They have a whole Commemorative Air Force (CAF) hanger dedicated to storing incredible older and historic planes – not to mention a British armored fighting vehicle – a Ferret Scout Car.  Most of the planes in the CAF hanger still fly!  Check out this plane:

Blue and Yellow Vultee BT Continue reading

The Nature Expert: Margot Miller

In our Rockville showroom: Margot Miller

Caribbean Sky in oil - $275

North Country Sky in oil - $275

I made the long drive out from Arlington, VA to Easton, MD to meet Margot. And boy was I happy when I got there. Margot is such a wonderful host, not just in her studio and home, but her whole town. She took me on a tour and told me a little bit about the history of the area.

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