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Interview with Meg Bye

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Meet our newest Board Member! Meg Bye talks about how the FS became a commu­nity, family, and the shift­ing view of craft.

This year brings a new member to The Furni­ture Society board: Meg Bye. A wood­worker and sculp­tor working in Seattle, Meg is the owner of Knot & Burl Studios. Her contem­po­rary work includes a wide range of mate­ri­als, includ­ing gold leaf, metal, and natural fiber. She shared some of her skills and knowl­edge at our annual confer­ence in Milwau­kee last June.

Here, Meg talks about how the FS became a commu­nity, family and the shift­ing view of craft.

https://www.knotandburlstudios…


What made you want to join the FS board?

I first joined The Furni­ture Society a few years ago. I had come to realize that even though I worked a lot and built a lot that was not the same as having a commu­nity. As soon as I connected with TFS I was welcomed and encour­aged to partic­i­pate. There is a generos­ity and inclu­sive­ness to the tenor of the group that made me want to get involved and stay involved. I’m a firm believer that when you find some­where that fits it becomes a you get out of it what you put into it” rela­tion­ship, and that’s what I’m hoping for as a new member of the board.

Has the FS helped you profes­sion­ally, in your busi­ness and/​or craft?

The FS commu­nity of cura­tors and makers has helped me grow my range of knowl­edge about oppor­tu­ni­ties that are out there. Some of these oppor­tu­ni­ties I’ve marked as goals to pursue and some I’ve been able to recom­mend to others. This summer I’m thrilled to be trav­el­ing to Mt. Fuji School of Wood­work­ing, a rela­tion­ship built entirely though FS connec­tions.

I’ve expe­ri­enced a bedrock of generos­ity built on respect for the craft and that extends to the commu­nity. More notable than one specific instance is the overall feeling that I can reach out for advice or insights to a knowl­edge­able and approach­able group.

What’s one thing you’re looking forward to doing as a board member?

I’m looking forward to connect­ing to regional commu­nity art centers, like YAYA Arts Center where we had a board meeting in New Orleans recently. There are so many commu­nity centric npos that FS can partner with though the Craft for A Greater Good program. I see the long lasting possi­bil­i­ties for artis­tic part­ner­ship, espe­cially through gener­a­tional rela­tion­ships as very cool.

A new year — how do you see the furni­ture making craft shift­ing over this coming decade?

I see an era of plural­ity. I have observed that the previ­ous model of very concise and constrained maker ideolo­gies are start­ing to be replaced by more indi­vid­u­al­is­ti­cally driven narra­tive works. I see busi­ness strate­gies and maker pieces moving toward instal­la­tions with conver­sa­tional elements, what­ever their point of view may be.

I think social media has shifted the conver­sa­tion plat­form that empha­sizes narra­tive visual story telling; the more authen­tic and approach­able the better. I have observed this influ­ence in the way large audi­ences consume content and further see that content ideol­ogy recy­cling back into the way artists portray their work. Nuances have greater impact when put into a narra­tive or inti­mate format and I think that encour­ages artists to work with stronger messages, POV, narra­tive story­telling and general plural­ity of influ­ence.

What about in your own work/​business, have any new year goals?

This will be an excit­ing year for my own work and goals. I am trav­el­ing to Japan to study at Mt. Fuji School of Wood­work­ing. For the past four years I’ve focused on growing busi­ness prac­tices and rela­tion­ships. But a healthy creative ecosys­tem is more than crit­i­cal analy­sis. It includes research, learn­ing, explo­ration and disci­pline. This year for me is about explo­ration and learn­ing.

I’ve slowed down with outside commis­sions to focus on creat­ing my own voice in my work. I remem­ber reading the biog­ra­phy of Maria Tallchief as a kid and really connect­ing to a chapter where after an injury she was strong armed by her trainer to return to the funda­men­tals — the most rudi­men­tary form of the prac­tice. She cred­ited her later achieve­ments (she is consid­ered one of the first and most extra­or­di­nary Amer­i­can prima balleri­nas) to that time of purpose­ful return to the essen­tials.

Because my busi­ness prac­tice hinges on my growth and sustain­abil­ity as a creative profes­sional, I think there will be tremen­dous value in taking time to reflect through reading, to explore through travel and to return to the role of serious student.

You’ve mentioned how your grand­fa­ther was a wood­worker; did you learn some of your skills from him?

I certainly learned a lot from him, but I have a hard time point­ing out where many of my skills started. My mother grew up on a farm and she is a very inde­pen­dent woman. If some­thing needed fixing or built, she had all the tools to do it and much of the know-how. If she didn’t know how to do some­thing she would ask people in the nearest radius to her until she found someone who would show her. In that way she’s always been fear­less.

My grand­fa­ther was an impres­sive wood­worker, farmer, and polit­i­cal spit­fire. If you could get past his gruff and wild demeanor, his true essence was he taught me to care about what you do with your mind and how you spend your time. He empha­sized that anything worthy of your mind, your time, and your phys­i­cal energy should be done with seri­ous­ness of purpose and dedi­ca­tion. I learned most of my early hand skills from him, but what really sunk in was the sense of respon­si­bil­ity to try and do a good job, with respect to what I create, my efforts and my mind.

What’s some­thing about you that would surprise people? (that you want to share!)

I have epilepsy. I’ve had it all my life but it wasn’t always as under­stood or under control as it is today. In recent years I’ve embraced living with it and adapt­ing my life to make things work with my condi­tion not against it. I used to feel a lot of shame, like this hand­i­cap was some­thing I needed to hide. Now that I’m more upfront with myself and others I can sculpt my own context so my needs are better met. The conse­quence of being more open, of being flex­i­ble with myself is that the people I work with are open and flex­i­ble with me. We try to be there for each other and help each other out, espe­cially since our jobs have phys­i­cal compo­nents we all need assis­tance some days.

I love to dance. You turn on music, of really any kind and then it’s all I can do to keep in my chair. My family are all into dance in a bunch of differ­ent forms. I’ll dance just about any time and anywhere — shout out to seeing yah’ all on the dance floor for this FS Confer­ence in Asheville, NC.

-Inter­view by Mya Rea Nelson