Monday, June 21, 2010

A Lesson in Furniture Building

This hardly looks like a rocking chair, right?  It actually includes all 22 pieces of wood that will be needed for our new chair which is being built by Hardwood Artisans in their workshop in Woodbridge, Virginia.
When we purchased our new family room furniture almost 3 months ago, they told us it would take about 3 months for it to be lovingly made by real people in their workshop.  They also said they would let us know when our pieces were in production so we could come see the work in progress.
Today was our day to visit.  We were escorted by Edwin, one of the foremen at the workshop.  He seemed to know the exact status of every one of the 6 pieces we ordered.

We started off in are area that contains piles and piles of lumber in the various woods they use.  Ours happen to be natural cherry.

We met Beth, a woman who will make our rocking chair from start to finish.  She described in minute detail the entire process.  I was immediately struck with the degree of precision that is necessary in doing this kind of work.

We saw our footstools and one of our chairs that are mostly finished.  The finishing area had a rich smell of the finishes they apply to the assembled pieces.

Then we met Aurora, the woman who is making our chairs and loveseat.  She was building a couch at the moment, but our loveseat was sitting in a pile of pieces waiting to be assembled.

This is a company with a high retention rate.  Many of the employees have been there for years.  They have such perqs as the encouragement to make their own furniture for the cost of the materials only.  This gives them practice and allows them to own fine handmade furniture.
I was actually quite surprised at the diversity of the workforce.  Not only were there women, but there were also African Americans and Latinos among the otherwise mostly white male employees.
In a couple of weeks when the construction is complete and the upholstered parts have arrived, we will accept delivery of the furniture.  I will always remember this visit behind the scene when I sit on any of the pieces we are getting. 


Blogger Merle Sneed said...

boy, that is some operation. Customer service at it's best. Not to mention great craftmanship.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Angela said...

What a personal approach to furniture! Will you give them names now? I know how rewarding such craftsmanship can be. My American Uncle was a carpenter and made lovely furniture in his garage. Also two wooden candle holders which I still have.

5:59 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

This is so cool! I am imagining that it is also quite expensive? It seems like they run a smart business here and the furniture looks beautiful -so far.

6:04 AM  
Blogger karen said...

This is amazing! Looking forward to seeing the completed furniture soon :)

6:42 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

What a great way to help buyers appreciate the furniture and the connections between all the people it took to produce it. Very Buddhist, I think. :)

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this! The craftsmanship and integrity of the furniture makers, being able to meet the builders of your furniture, long-term employees, peeking "behind the curtain" into the process...My partner and I had some similar experiences as our home was being rebuilt/remodeled, which I too will always remember.


10:08 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

This is the type of blogging that I adore...from the front. I also love giving attention to local businesses. I've seen their ads for years. Now I know what they are really about. You'll always remember those people when you see that furniture.

9:52 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Merle -- This company is all about customer service. We could sense that from our first visit to their showroom.

Angela -- We don't tend to name cars or other inanimate things in our house. But I will always remember the names and faces of those who are making our furniture.

Gary -- It's not really that expensive because these are not one-of-a-kind pieces. I love the look, feel, and smell of good wood.

Karen -- I can't wait to write about the completed furniture. Our family room is quite empty since our furniture went to NYC to be used by our daughter and her boyfriend in NJ.

Steve -- The work ethic of everyone we talked to yesterday was very Buddhist. They reflected an uncommon pride in what they are doing.

Anon -- There are not too many opportunities in our mass-produced society to meet the people who make the things you use. It was just as special as getting to know the farmers who grow the food we eat.

Cube -- You should take a trip down to Woodbridge to see this operation. I too had heard about this company for years, but I never knew anything beyond the ads.

10:42 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I love that you went to see your furniture being made. It so fits your personality and your love of learning.

9:56 PM  

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