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Interview With Forest Dickey

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Geoff McKonly, of the Furni­ture Society Commu­ni­ca­tions Team, spoke recently with outgo­ing Furni­ture Society Pres­i­dent Forest Dickey about his work, his company (Varian Designs) and his involve­ment with The Furniture Society.

The follow­ing is a tran­script of their conversation:

GM: How long have you been a member of The Furniture Society?

FD: My involve­ment with The Furni­ture Society started a while ago. I was a student repre­sen­ta­tive to the board about 10 years ago. I served a term in that capac­ity, 2006 – 2007, and then took some time off from board duties and was a partic­i­pant in several commit­tees, and then was asked to come on to the board about six years ago. I’m approach­ing the end of my second of two three-year terms.

GM: Where did you go to school when you were a student representative?

FD: I went to grad­u­ate school at San Diego State, under Wendy Maruyama. Before that, I did my under­grad­u­ate in art and art history at the Univer­sity of Chicago.

My involve­ment and my appre­ci­a­tion for the furni­ture society has been twofold. It’s been inspi­ra­tion. Seeing the breadth and the depth of talent of people in furni­ture across the country and across the world has just been incred­i­bly reward­ing. New things inspire me, new thoughts inspire me. People’s creativ­ity and the way they think about things which is so radi­cally differ­ent from mine it Is really inspir­ing to me. The fact that then people go out and make things and share those things is, to me, really incred­i­ble. I feel I’ve gotten a lot out of it in a selfish way just by being around these people and talking to them. And then the other side is just the quality friend­ships and the quality of the people. The rich­ness of commu­nity has also just been fantas­tic and one of the great­est things about the group. I’ve always felt that while we don’t always agree on every­thing we have great times, we talk about things, we share things and being a part of that commu­nity has a very deep, deep feeling for me. I really appre­ci­ate it. The people are good people and that’s fantastic.

GM: And those connec­tions and inter­ac­tions are though, conferences…?

FD: Confer­ences, the work I do on the board, the people I talk to about The Furni­ture Society, the people I meet when I’m on Furni­ture Society busi­ness and do doing all kinds of work. Meeting you for example, I wouldn’t get that oppor­tu­nity if it was just myself. I’d be in my own little silo and it pulls me out of that silo and intro­duces me to great people and then have great expe­ri­ences. Those are the strengths of the furni­ture society and why I keep coming back, the people, the people are fantas­tic in those commu­ni­ties. I think that wood­work­ers and furni­ture makers have a tendency to be isolated, to isolate them­selves, to see people come out of that isola­tion is one of the biggest advan­tages and one of the main things I talk to people about when I’m trying to promote the Furni­ture Society and explain to people why I think they should be members and why it’s impor­tant to me. Just the commu­nity and the group­ing of shared expe­ri­ence and advan­tages and the things you get sharing those expe­ri­ences are unique.

GM: What is the goal of your work with Varian Designs?

FD: My goal has always been to make a living making furni­ture. To run a success­ful busi­ness that supports me and my family. Obvi­ously, it’s a diffi­cult propo­si­tion. The connec­tion to the Furni­ture Society is all these people that expe­ri­ence that have gone before me and are willing to talk to me about what they did. Mistakes they made, things they did right. Every­one has their own advice, thoughts and expe­ri­ences and if you can listen to those people and learn from them it makes not only a work stronger, but it can help make your busi­ness stronger as well. Having that advan­tage of meeting people when I have a partic­u­lar problem in my busi­ness and being able to say, hey what did you do, or have you ever had a situ­a­tion like this. If you can’t help, do you know some­body who can. There’s a tremen­dous advan­tage there for your busi­ness. Because there’s so many people that have done it before. Having that imme­di­ate connec­tion to them rather than having to cold call is extremely helpful.