The creation of the New Hampshire Furniture Masters Association completed the state's furniture-making hierarchy, said Terry Moore, a founding member of the Masters Association and the Guild. Woodworkers typically start in the Guild, work to get juried into the League and then work toward the Masters Association, he explained. The Masters group represents the highest level of craftsmanship, supporting the state's top furniture makers and giving up-and-coming woodworkers something to strive for.
Moore pointed to the recent career of Loran Smith as "the common progression." Smith had been making high-end kitchens when he began to attend Guild meetings. This is the usual first step, Moore said, because the Guild is basically educational, and members can just sit back and absorb. The Guild has annual shows, but they are not formally juried.
The Masters members began to notice Smith's furniture at the Guild shows. "It was obvious that this guy had what it takes," Moore recalled. After three or four years, Smith exhibited a serpentine chest of
Photos: Larry Crowe drawers with inlay, and Masters members said, "This guy is ready." Smith was juried into the League shows and invited into the Masters Association.
Smith's furniture-making career hit a high point recently when he sold a Federal sideboard to U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg and was invited by Gregg's wife for a VIP tour of the White House.
The League and the Masters Association are similar in that each has a juried show and demands more than one piece from a woodworker, but the Masters' jury process is tougher, and its deadlines, from proposal to delivery, are tighter. "The Masters separates the men from the boys," Moore said. Members are expected to propose at least two new pieces each Feb. 1 and deliver the finished work by June 1 for the catalog photo session. They must also know how to price their work. The deadlines push members to grow each year and to generate new designs. "They force us to think about what we are doing and how we do it," Moore said.
Both the League and the Masters Association help aspiring furniture makers realize their goal of getting out of commercial jobs and into studio work. "I'm a product of the system," Moore said. "I was building kitchen cabinets when I stumbled onto Living with Crafts." Living with Crafts is a 20-year-old exhibit that presents furniture in a series of room vignettes at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen's Fair, which is held each year at the Mount Sunapee Resort in Newbury.
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