In the beginning of March, my wife and I met friends in Camden, Maine for the weekend. March isn’t exactly the busy season in Maine, but it is a great time to stay in a luxurious inn with several fireplaces, eat good food and drink wine. A fifteen-minute drive from Camden is the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship. Being once a boat builder, I have spent a lot of time in this area, but I had little interest in furniture on those trips and had no idea that the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship even existed. It was probably four years ago that I read founder Peter Korn’s book, Why We Make Things and Why It Matters. I’ve been intrigued since I read Peter’s story and wanted to make this an opportunity to stop in and visit.
After a lunch at Moody’s Diner finished by a slice of wild blueberry pie, I met Peter. He gave me a tour of the shops and machine rooms and gave me details about the programs and what the students were currently involved in. I was especially grateful to Peter for his generosity with his time and his interest in my story and work.
The Center for Furniture Craftsmanship is a place abuzz with possibility. It is set up purposefully and ready for work to be done. Peter and his Board of Directors have been focused on a question that I rarely see looked at closely in a school; What size do they want to be and what level of programming do they want to deliver? Because of this, Peter knows who is there and what they’re working on. The students and fellows get the attention they need to explore and execute their ideas. And most importantly they continually fine tune and improve what they do. This is an important point. It’s easy to expand as soon as you begin to build momentum. It takes a lot of control and focus to find out what you can do better and how you can build on what you already do well.
Why We Make Things and Why It Matters is a great story about the journey of an insightful craftsman looking to see how far making furniture could take him. It’s also a well written treatise on the value of craft to being human.
I’m personally drawn to reading about craft because I’m trying to understand more about the things I’m drawn to. To paraphrase Why We Make Things and Why It Matters, a good life is constructed from the materials at hand. All the better if my understanding of my materials is well-informed.