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The Furni­ture Society is a nonprofit, educa­tional orga­ni­za­tion founded in 1996.

The Society spon­sors a variety of programs that contribute to the educa­tion and enrich­ment of members and the public. Built on a tradi­tion of volun­teerism, The Furni­ture Society works to realize its mission through educa­tional programs, publi­ca­tions, exhi­bi­tions, recog­ni­tion of excel­lence in the field, and annual conferences. 

to advance the art of furni­ture making by inspir­ing creativ­ity, promot­ing excel­lence and foster­ing an under­stand­ing of this art and its place in society.

The mission of The Furniture Society
Craig Nutt

With members from across the United States and Canada, as well as numer­ous other coun­tries around the world, the Furni­ture Society repre­sents a broad cross-section of furni­ture makers, museum and gallery profes­sion­als, schol­ars, jour­nal­ists, and others involved with the field of furni­ture in many different ways.

The History of the Society

Germi­nat­ing from an idea first discussed in 1995, founder Sarah McCol­lum presented the concept for an orga­ni­za­tion that was to become The Furni­ture Society at the annual Amer­i­can Craft Council show in Balti­more in March, 1996. With strong inter­est and signif­i­cant grass­roots finan­cial support, a Steer­ing Commit­tee was formed in April 1996 and charged with the tasks of formal­iz­ing the Soci­ety’s bylaws and apply­ing for 501©3 non-profit status. Plans were also estab­lished for the first Furni­ture Society confer­ence, to be held in the summer of 1997.

In May 1996, the newly formed Steer­ing Commit­tee presented the concept of the orga­ni­za­tion to partic­i­pants of the Philadel­phia Fine Furnish­ings Show, and the first general members were signed up. One month later, the Society received a grant of $25,000 from an anony­mous donor to help estab­lish the organization.

15-chairs-color-back
Alan Harp

Through the remain­ing months of 1996, the new orga­ni­za­tion devel­oped a website and a member­ship data­base through the efforts of Stephen Clerico and Craig Nutt — both volun­teers and orig­i­nal members. Clerico soon after was hired as the Soci­ety’s first employee, and in that capac­ity, he managed both the website and data­base until leaving the orga­ni­za­tion in 2006.

May of 1997 saw the publi­ca­tion of the first Society newslet­ter, Furni­ture Matters, edited by Rick Mastelli.

In June 1997 the Steer­ing Commit­tee was dissolved and replaced by the first Board of Trustees. Offi­cers included pres­i­dent Sarah McCol­lum, vice pres­i­dent Dennis FitzGer­ald, secre­tary Brian Glad­well, and trea­surer Deborah Levin Daniell.

June 1997 also saw the convo­ca­tion of the first annual Furni­ture Society confer­ence, Furni­ture 97, held at Purchase College in Purchase, New York. With 350 people in atten­dance, this confer­ence set the stan­dard and serves as a template for all succeed­ing confer­ences. Opening in conjunc­tion with the confer­ence was the first exhi­bi­tion spon­sored by the Furni­ture Society, Survey of North Amer­i­can Contem­po­rary Furni­ture, curated by Paul Sasso and shown at the Neuberger Museum of Art on the Purchase campus.

Compartmnt1-1080-96
Michael Mcdunn

The Furni­ture Society received its offi­cial tax exemp­tion from the IRS, as a 501©3 nonprofit, in Novem­ber of 1997. In Decem­ber of that year, the first offi­cial meeting of The Furni­ture Society Board of Trustees was held at Purchase College. At that meeting, a proposal was accepted to produce a series of books titled Furni­ture Studio, to be edited by John Kelsey and Rick Mastelli.

The second annual Furni­ture Society confer­ence convened in San Fran­cisco, at the Cali­for­nia College of Arts and Crafts (now the CCA) and the Oakland Museum in late June 1998. Titled Furni­ture 98: East Meets West, speak­ers included Aaron Betsky from the San Fran­cisco Museum of Modern Art and Ken Trapp of the Smith­son­ian Insti­tu­tion’s Renwick Gallery.

One year later, The Furni­ture Society mounted its third annual confer­ence, Furni­ture 99 — The Circle Unbro­ken: Conti­nu­ity and Inno­va­tion in Studio Furni­ture, at the Appalachian Center for Craft in Smithville, Tennessee. The DeWalt tool manu­fac­tur­ing company provided the first major spon­sor­ship of a Society confer­ence. Opening at the confer­ence was the Soci­ety’s first juried exhi­bi­tion, The Circle Unbro­ken: Conti­nu­ity and Inno­va­tion in Studio Furni­ture. Jurors included Andrew Glasgow, who 2 years later would become the Soci­ety’s first Executive Director.

Trimerous-Chair-new
Seth Rolland

Recent History

The Furni­ture Society has contin­ued to offer annual confer­ences – in recent years alter­nat­ing with shorter symposia – that have attracted inter­na­tional partic­i­pants and high quality presen­ta­tions. These events have included:

Annual Conferences & Symposia

  • 1997 Purchase College — Purchase, NY
  • 1998 Cali­for­nia College of Arts & Crafts — Oakland, CA
  • 1999 Appalachian Center for Crafts — Smithville, TN
  • 2000 Sheri­dan College — Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 2001 Arizona State Univer­sity — Tempe, AZ
  • 2002 Univer­sity of Wiscon­sin — Madison, WI
  • 2003 The Univer­sity of the Arts — Philadel­phia, PA
  • 2004 Savan­nah College of Art and Design — Savan­nah, GA
  • 2005 San Diego State Univer­sity — San Diego, CA 10th
  • 2006 Herron School of Art and Design — Indi­anapo­lis, IN
  • 2007 Univer­sity of Victo­ria — Victo­ria, British Colum­bia, Canada
  • 2008 Purchase College — Purchase, NY
  • 2009 Appalachian State Univer­sity — Boone, NC
  • 2010 Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy — Cambridge, MA
  • 2012 Maine College of Arts — Port­land, ME
  • 2013 Craft in America Study Center Sympo­sium — Los Angeles, CA
  • 2014 Port Townsend School of Wood­work­ing — Port Townsend, WA
  • 2015 Amer­i­can Tobacco Historic District Sympo­sium — Durham, NC
  • 2016 The Univer­sity of the Arts — Philadel­phia, PA
  • 2017 Joint sympo­sium with Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of Wood­turn­ers — Kansas City, MO
  • 2018 Dog Patch Studios — San Fran­cisco, CA

By 2015, member­ship had grown dramat­i­cally, schol­ar­ships and grants (albeit rela­tively small) were being offered, another book had been published, and the annual Award of Distinc­tion had become a beacon for the field in honor­ing the best of the best.”

In 2016, the Society employed a part-time exec­u­tive direc­tor and relo­cated its head­quar­ters to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Annual Confer­ence in Philadel­phia brought in a bevy of outstand­ing presen­ters, includ­ing Tyler Hayes (BDDW), Wendell Castle, Michael Hurwitz, Peter Danko, and many others. The 2016 Award of Distinc­tion was presented to: Ned Cooke, Yale Univer­sity profes­sor of Amer­i­can Deco­ra­tive Arts and prolific author; and Thomas Hucker, crafts­man, and international professor.

Alicia_Dietz_Through_the_Looking_Glass-41

During the year, FS was present at various shows across the conti­nent, includ­ing Inter­na­tional Contem­po­rary Furni­ture Show (New York, NY), Inte­rior Design Society Fair West (Vancou­ver, BC), Amer­i­can Crafts Week (national), West Edge Design Fair (Santa Monica, CA), Sculp­ture Objects Func­tional Art and Design Fair (Chicago), and more.

In 2017, the Society hired a new full-time exec­u­tive direc­tor and relo­cated its head­quar­ters to Liber­tyville, IL. 2018 was marked by receiv­ing two impor­tant grants, one from the Windgate Foun­da­tion, the other from the John & Robyn Horn Foun­da­tion. The grants enabled the Society to hire addi­tional staff in the form of an Educa­tion Direc­tor and start excit­ing new initia­tives, such as a grant program, EFASO, aimed to defray the high cost of ship­ping typi­cally asso­ci­ated with furni­ture and larger sculptural objects.