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Maine's Culture of Fine Craftsmanship Lures the Furniture Society to Portland

Next month, the furniture world will revolve around Portland – in fact, around Congress Street. FS2012, shorthand for the Furniture Society’s national 2012 conference, will happen here from June 14 to the 16th. The big shebang takes place at the Maine College of Art, with pre-conference tours up to Thomas Moser, the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, and other centers of Maine's legendary culture of craftsmanship. Plenty of events, exhibitions, and presentations are also on tap.

But why Maine — why Portland — when this event has previously alighted in places like San Francisco and Cambridge? Well, according to the Furniture Society‘s website, “The state of Maine boasts a long and distinguished history of craft and woodworking… This trans-generational underpinning is still woven into the fabric of Maine’s culture.”

And as for our city, the Furniture Society writes, “Portland is an amazing city. Located on the southern coast of Maine, it’s just the right size, easy to navigate on foot, brimming with culture and minutes from beaches, lakes and forests… Between the outdoor activities, the booming local food movement and the vibrant visual and performing arts scene, Portland offers not just a place to live but a way of life.”

Hey, sounds like these guys have been stealing copy from our website. But it is true. In cities and towns and at the ends of quiet rural roads, Maine woodworkers and cabinetmakers and craftspeople are producing traditional and groundbreaking designs that are respected and sought after internationally.

One fellow who knows a bit about that is Sherwood Hamill, whose furniture typically shares center stage with the work of his partner, textile designer Angela Adams. Together, they will be keynote speakers at FS2012. In Sherwood’s words, “Naturally, we’re excited that the Furniture Society has chosen Portland for its 2012 Conference. Portland is the ideal place, it has a vibrant art scene in a state with a long history of fine craft. And with MECA hosting the conference, a prestigious international group of creative people will be introduced to Portland and the inspirations of the state.”

Looking at the program for FS2012, some of the presentation titles are hard to resist: “The Fine Art of Keeping Going”, “Hey, Did That Bench Just Move?”, “Occupy Main Street”, and “What the Heck Is Metal Clay?” So if you’re a furniture maker, or a furniture lover, or if you sometimes find yourself sitting on or leaning up against a piece of furniture, you probably want to check out FS2012. The conference’s theme is “Design, Community, & the Sublime” – at least one of those topics is bound to interest you, right?

Image: Sherwood Hamill's sea chest sidecase, from the Angela Adams website.

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