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JOEL Joel's Blog

Not a Dovetail In Sight


Not a Dovetail In Sight 4Last week I went to the ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) at the Javitts center. The largest furniture design show in the US and while far smaller than the Milan furniture show various exhibitors told me that they found the overwhelming size of the Milan show intimidating and the NY show was more successful for them.

I saw lots of my customers. The show consists of furniture designers and makers from all over. From big companies like Knoll to smaller shops in Brooklyn, all were putting their best foot forward and showing the best, newest stuff around. There was furniture, lighting, fabrics, and hardware.

Not a Dovetail In Sight 5I went to the show to see my friends from the Northumbria University. Their booth highlighted the work made in conjunction of their Designers in Residence Program. They really understands the importance of the customer in design and they show at design fairs with the goal of selling their works. I loved the scotch tape dispenser, the rivet lights were cool, the executive empire building kit was fun, but I went home with a new salt and pepper shaker designed by Tatsuya Akita.

Not a Dovetail In Sight 6I didn't tell Tatsuya why I bought the pepper mill, The look is cool, but what sold me was how solid it felt in the hand and the general feel of the thing. I am pleased to be a customer. And in a first for me - I didn't have the cash so I used paypal from my smartphone. The Northumbria University program is worth looking at more closely so much more next week.

The furniture was mostly very interesting. Some really excellent forms designed for modern living. With the exception of some standout Japanese screens by one vendor what you don't see is traditional joinery or carving. But that should not scare you off.

Pricing is what you would expect for low volume and custom production. Unlike a typical craft fair where the furniture makers would be the most expensive items by far, here there is safety in numbers and the sky is the limit. The show is largely closed to the general public but decorators, buyers, and interior designers from all over the country come in droves.

Not a Dovetail In Sight 7Here is a short video from the New York Times that has a slightly different slant - one that highlights the craft aspects of the furniture shown. There is a brief glimpse of the Northumbria University booth as well as a shot of a local craftsman making furniture using our holdfasts.

The takeaway I got from the show is that the market for high end furniture, lots of it made by small shops is alive and well. Really high end decorative stuff is being made. The level of craftsmanship is very very high. But it's not traditional craftsmanship. Just like Chippendale, Phyfe, Stickley and other historic designers of furniture, today's designers are pushing new boundaries, making new stuff, but they are using a full repertoire of old and new techniques, materials and design vocabulary. And people of buying it. I do wish there were more classic styles in view but I would guess that's not what people are buying just now.
Another thing to consider is that if you are a furniture maker trying to make a living this is the show you need to be in. This is where the money is. There were a lot of local makers in the show - for them it's a no brainer - but there were also makers from around the country and around the world. Bespoke furniture is expensive and you need a venue where that's not the issue. A venue where buyers (decorators and interior designers) with money show up.

The lead picture is of the Wishbone Woodworking booth, one of the many fine Brooklyn craftsman who were exhibited.

In other news:

We just got a shipment in of Norton Black Arkansas stones. I don't know if we will be able to get more.

The current issue of The Work Magazine Reprint Project -#10 is a killer and has a bunch of great projects. I'll have a blog on that tomorrow.

Our Festool contest ends this week and starting June 1 the new Festool Domino XL, Syslite, and Surfix become available. We have them in stock, just waiting for the starting gun. You can pre-order anytime. We also have a lot of other new Festool stuff either on-line or in stock and almost on-line as it's June 1 when Festool does its big year release.

We also got in a set of two riffler rasps by Auriou that were designed by Chris Pye with an eye to being a more useful set for carving than the traditional combos. Chris Pye carving sets should be back in stock soon we hope.

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05/30/2012 Wade
In other news - what's the advantage of the Black Arkansas stone over the hard/translucent? Can't find a consensus online, was wondering what your opinion was.
I am not sure if there is. The surface finish of these black ark stones is definitely smoother than a regular norton ark stone. But the regular ark stones will work just as smooth after a little use. Is the black ark stone intrinsically smoother than a Norton regular ark stone? I don't know. Norton didn't even separate black arkansas stones from their regular production until recently - when they realized it sells for a premium. I have stones from Norton in all sorts of colors. I have not done any side by side comparison of new production stones but a fair number of people I respect do tell me that the Norton black is a little finer than the standard arkansas stone Norton sell. But I have not personal experience with the newer stones.
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