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.

Kindling for a Cause

My wife, Erika, doesn’t like to waste anything. Her mother came from the Old Country and frugality was a way of life in her house. After all, many immigrants arrived at the New World with very little. My family wasn’t as interested in saving and Erika saw me as wasteful when we merged our lives together. Over 25 years ago, when I started working in the shop of The Loft Bed Store, I would occasionally bring home a couple buckets of scrap wood; small, 0r randomly sized chunks of kiln dried cherry, oak, walnut, and mahogany known as mill ends. We’d use this in our small condo fireplace since we couldn’t afford to purchase seasoned firewood for our occasional fires. She couldn’t believe this stuff was just thrown out. (After all, her mother would have found a way to build a house with it or sell it on Ebay.) But in creating furniture, the fact is that every single inch of wood just isn’t usable. Though the shop guys are very cognizant of using each piece of lumber to its fullest potential, there are sap stains, splits and other irregularities that need to be cut around. Then each piece needs to be edged, squaring it up, and other trim scraps are added to the pile. Admittedly, it is tough seeing all this beautiful hardwood tossed. Well, not exactly tossed. We do send it to the local landfill, to be ground up with other things like yard waste and used Christmas trees. That mixture is turned into mulch.

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Wood Carver Extraordinaire – Lawrence Oliver

Although Lawrence Oliver is not local to the DC area, we could not pass up on showing his amazing sculptures in our showrooms.  These are works of art that you need see in person to fully appreciate.  Using one block of wood to make each piece, he sculpts away until he ends up with the shapes we see now.  He left us completely baffled, shocked that this form of art is even possible.  We cannot get over how he makes these sculptures out of one piece of wood.  Take a look at the picture below and see for yourself.

Starfire II in walnut sculpted by Lawrence Oliver

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Our Expanding Local Artist Program

As you know, Hardwood Artisans loves our local artists and showing them off.  We have a collection of new local artwork in our showrooms and we’d love for all the fans of handmade art to visit our showrooms and check them out:

  • Barbara Gatterdam – makes beautiful pottery out of her home in Great Falls, VA
  • Fred Eberhart – for a limited time only, a local photographer we acquired through Broadway Gallery in Alexandria, VA
  • Amy Jackson – a brand new local potter with her own sense of style in Fair Oaks, VA
  • Lawrence Oliver – makes handmade wooden sculptures that leave you in awe in Missouri

From top counter-clockwise; Fred Eberhart: Old Rag, Clearing Storm; Barbara Gatterdam: Large Bowl; Lawrence Oliver: Vase in ebonized cherry; Amy Jackson: Hibiscus

Throughout this week we will be posting blogs highlighting about different local artists that we are displaying in our showroom.

Tuesday:  Barbara Gatterdam & Fred Eberhart

Wednesday: Amy Jackson & Lawrence Oliver

We’re excited to hear your opinions on their work!

Goodbye Woodbridge, Hello Culpeper!

At the end of the year 2011 Hardwood Artisans will move its whole woodshop and its employees to our recently purchased new shop space in Culpeper, Virginia.  We have spent most of our Hardwood Artisans life in Woodbridge, Virginia building furniture for you, your family members and your friends.  We have been expanding over the past ten years at about a rate of about 3%.  We are hoping this will continue for years and years to come.

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Showing Art through the Glass

Have you seen the art glass in some of our furniture?  Those beautiful creations were made by our skilled Edwin Moncada, who is also a craftsman, sales person, webmaster, and my dad!  He designed and crafted this piece:

"Fall Begins" An Art Glass Screen

“Fall Begins” An Art Glass Screen

Back in 2005, when he first began working for Hardwood Artisans, he started with sanding pieces, making cabinets, and enjoyed working as a craftsman in our shop; later on, people got to know him better and learned that he had other talents, which let him into working in his career which is Systems Engineering.  He turned into our webmaster.  Being the company’s webmaster taught him about the 800 products Hardwood Artisans builds, designs and sells.  Edwin soon became a valuable salesperson.

Javier's Mirror with Edwin's Art Glass Design

Javier’s Mirror with Edwin’s Art Glass Design

His interest in art glass sparked when Greg Gloor, our previous art glass creator, told him that it was time for him to learn something new. He started to show him what he knew about art glass and taught him until he mastered the creation process. The lessons started with stretching lead, cutting and breaking glass, and occasionally getting bloody fingers (tee hee!)  Even with the “suffering,” he likes creating the art glass a lot. “I like the fact that you can create new things with feeling towards what you build, which is also applied in furniture making,” my dad says proudly. He has now been making art glass for three and a half years now and shows progress and new ideas with every design.

Here is a design for Greg Gloor’s home:

Edwin's Art Glass for Greg Gloor's Home

Edwin’s Art Glass for Greg Gloor’s Home

 He makes his art by first sitting with customers and designing a style that would be suitable for their furniture. Then he comes up with the measurements, drawings and the template, and afterwards choosing the glass that best fits the design (“The most difficult part” he said). The fun part starts when he has to put all the pieces together to see if it looks like he planned. Finally, after welding them together with lead, he goes to wash his piece and… It’s ready!

Edwin's Art Glass up close

 Our customers have been happy and proud of their new furniture, because not only has the design come to life; it also shows a light of its own. At the moment, he is working on doors for kitchen cabinets (pictured below), so keep in touch to see the result!

Edwin working on a kitchen cabinet art glass design

Edwin working on a kitchen cabinet art glass design

If you would like to see his creations, or talk to him about a project you can email him: Edwin@hardwoodartisans.com.  You can also come to our Woodbridge showroom/woodshop to see my dad in action, or visit one of our other three showrooms to see more of his designs.

Written by Edwin’s daughter: Adriana Moncada, 14

Trivets: The process behind making a gift for you!

We are excited about our upcoming Lemonade Social and looking forward to seeing all of you there.  We are working hard making a gift to give you at the Lemonade Social.  This year, the owners have designed a special trivet we think you will enjoy.  The best part about the trivet is that it uses up scrap wood which saves wood from being wasted.  The project begins with a can full of scrap wood.  Our scrap wood comes from projects which used larger pieces of wood.  If you look closely enough at this photo you can see pieces of wood that were used to make drawers:

Scrap Wood

There are a lot of tree huggers here at Hardwood Artisans, and we try as hard as we can to reduce waste and energy.  Have you ever seen our striped Suzy Cubes?  They are made of scrap wood as well.

Here is a walk through on how the trivets are made, at the Lemonade Social you can see it happen right in front of you.  You can even take home the one you watched being made!

It all starts with one of our talented craftsmen.  He or she places a piece of scrap wood onto our CNC router.  CNC stands for Computer Numerically Controlled.  You can learn more about them here.  The machine makes cuts into the wood just the right size of the trivet, as well as the holes in the trivet.  Here is an image of one of our craftsmen with the piece of wood.  He will place it onto the orange machine right behind him:

Craftsman picking out the right piece of scrap wood to place on the CNC router behind him

Craftsman picking out the right piece of scrap wood to place on the CNC router behind him

The piece of wood comes out with the proper holes in it, as well as the shape cut out.

When it comes out of the CNC router it looks like this

The craftsman will then bring it over to an area set up with a drill bit.  He will run the drill bit along the edge where the trivet has been cut.  This cuts it free from the rest of the wood and rounds the edges over, making them smooth.  We built a box overtop the drill bit to ensure the proper height for rounding the edges of the trivet, it looks just like this:

Cutting the trivet from the block of wood and rounding the edges

Cutting the trivet from the block of wood and rounding the edges

The trivet will get sanded down and will be ready for you to take home and use!  Join us for the Lemonade Social, Saturday and Sunday June 26th and 27th and see the process for yourself!  We are planning to make about 400 trivets and staying busy doing it!  Here are a few we have already done:

The trivets we have compeleted thus far, only 350 more to go!

The trivets we have completed thus far, only 350 more to go!

For more information about the Lemonade Social click here.  We hope to see you there!

New Artist: Woodturner Patrick O’Brien

At Hardwood Artisans we love local artists.  We have found a very talented woodturner, Patrick O’Brien.  His carefully crafted work of bowls, platters and wine stoppers are currently being shown in our Fairfax showroom.  Including this piece:  

Russian Olive Tall Bowl

Russian Olive Tall Bowl

Patrick is kind enough to be doing a demonstration at our event on June 26th, our 4th Annual Lemonade Social.  He will be doing his demonstration at 11am and 1pm and will have a small lathe with him to show and teach you what he does.  Come on it and see what he can do!  You will also get a chance to see this beautiful piece of his:  

Fluted Sycamore Bowl

This 14″ by 5″ bowl had 36 flutes hand carved with a die grinder with carbide drums and hand finished

Cherry Fluted Bottom

Cherry Fluted Bottom

 

Patrick fell in love with woodturning one summer when he saw the work of Alan Hollar in the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville,North Carolina. He has since studied with Willard Baxter and Bobbie Clemons at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, many others and even the very Alan Hollar whose work inspired himto take up the art of woodturning in the first place.   

In 2003, he began a business called OhBeWood and started selling his work.  In September 2008, he moved to the Lorton Workhouse Art Center in Lorton, Virginia, a new artists’ community with more than 60 studios and several galleries where their works are sold.  A small selection is also available at the new Del Ray gallery, A Show of Hands, at 2301 Mt. Vernon Avenue.  You can view his work in our Fairfax showroom as well as on his website: ohbewood.com.  He welcomes your comments and observations about the pieces featured.

Exotic wood stainless steel wine bottle stoppers with nitrile rings

Exotic wood stainless steel wine bottle stoppers with nitrile rings

Three of his turnings were selected for inclusion in the 2005 and 2008Washington Wood shows.  He has had pieces juried into the March, April, May, July, August, and October 2004 and the March, April, May, and July 2005 Art League of Alexandria shows at the Torpedo Factory.  He is a member of the Washington Woodworkers Guild, Del Ray Artisans, and the Art League of Alexandria.  We hope you can join us to see his demonstration on May 15th in our Fairfax showroom at 2pm. 

Beaded Box Elder 12.5" x 5"

Beaded Box Elder 12.5″ x 5″

 

Patrick’s Artists Statement:

What I love about woodturning is the way the wood reveals itself as I work. Michelangelo is reputed to have said in answer to the question about how he created his famous statue of David from a block of marble, “I just cut away everything that wasn’t David, and there he was.” I imagine it’s debatable whether or not Michelangelo actually said that, and I am certainly not comparing myself to him, but I feel similarly about working with wood. As I ‘turn” a log or block of wood over and over again in my hands I begin to feel what it might become. Then, as I actually begin to turn the wood on my lathe and the grain, the spalting, and the “flaws” of the wood are revealed, I feel as if the soul of the wood is coming out. In all of my work, I try not to get in the way of the spirit of the wood. 

It’s finally here: our Kitchen in Fairfax

We have finished installing our fully working kitchen in Fairfax.  Our showroom staff have been enjoying the opportunity to bake fresh cookies and sit at the bar to relax.  Co-owner Mark Gatterdam tells the story of how and why we went into building kitchens:”In 2001 I needed a kitchen to go into the new home my wife Erika and I were building. I actually went to Home Depot and to get an estimate for a kitchen design. It was $12,000 for just the cabinets, and was not what I actually wanted. They were simply stock cases that didn’t fit the space and left a lot of wasted areas in the design. I felt that I wasn’t being heard by the sales person and it became clear to me that this was not going to work.

I was too busy to build the cabinets myself – I was building a house! I hired Ricardo, then a craftsman and now my partner, to build my kitchen.  I designed it, and he executed it. I was asked my opinion on how I wanted things to look or work, and he would then get that done. I got exactly what I wanted, and it was perfect.”  Here is a picture of it:

Mark's Kitchen

Mark’s Kitchen

And one more:

Mark's Kitchen

Mark’s Kitchen

“We have been building vanities, odd spaces, unusual looks, that sort of thing, but not kitchens. After Greg built his home and subsequently his kitchen using some of the craftsmen in the shop, we decided that doing kitchens was sort of different and fun.

We had always resisted doing them because we felt we could not compete with companies who do it exclusively. The reality is that people are willing to pay a little more to get the service, attention, and product they need. So, here we are launching off on our kitchen cabinet venture. Typical Hardwood Artisans quality and construction. Designed and built to meet your individual wants and needs.”

Greg's Kitchen

Greg’s Kitchen

We have two kitchen designers if you need help designing or visualizing your space.  Any thoughts or questions you have e-mail us at info@hardwoodartisans.com.