Interview with Meg Bye
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.
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