Changing the Landscape of Studio Furniture
Provide world-class furniture to the market place. We will do this by designing and building original designs for a growing cadre of connoisseurs and train craftsmen to fulfill the demand.
Vision and role:
Our goal is to create a seamless infrastructure that connects clients to a system of production that is a fully integrated mechanism for supporting forest and urban ecosystems, craftsmen and clients sustainably. Through educating our client base, every sale becomes a conscious investment in the long-term health of our economy and ecology.
Our Vision is to inspire a genuine culture of excellence in the furniture industry.
At its core is the creation of a responsive and inclusive new model that redefines the relationship between supply and demand and reconnects society to those essential values it holds dear—quality, community, health, authenticity and optimism. More than a new business model, Brian Boggs Chairmakers will work with diverse partners, woodworkers, forest managers, interior designers and galleries of common purpose to forge a new culture of doing business. Brian Boggs Chairmakers will provide the clear vision and connective tissue essential for an empowering collaboration that delivers demonstrable and expanding benefits on environmental, economic and social fronts.
Changing the landscape for craftsmen
The American Arts & Crafts market is one of the largest and most important markets for crafts in the world, accounting for about US $13.8 billion annually. Most of these extraordinarily talented folks are operating as solo entrepreneurs, a fragile business model that is now, in the face of today’s marketplace, close to collapse.
If we as a nation are to preserve anything but a “mass-manufactured” artistic presence in our lives, then what we are doing simply isn’t good enough. Brian Boggs Chairmakers was created to help us find a better way. It is our belief that “handwork” has great relevance in our lives and an important role in large-scale production. The marketplace battle between manufactured products and handmade need not be. We can embrace them both in a cooperative mutually supporting model that recognizes the values each bring to producing what we use to enhance our life styles.
I. Why the Existing “Studio” Model Doesn’t Work
One doesn’t have to look far to find woodworkers unable to support themselves by their craft alone. It is just too much for one person to design and produce, plus sell and run a business. Many craftspeople, skilled in the creative and production aspects of their work, do not have the skills or time necessary to also manage and market their trade. Then there are other reasons why they have difficulty supporting themselves from their craft alone: lack of funds to get started, lack of the time it takes to hone skills and build a name, and the lack of a supportive community of peers and suppliers. For those who do succeed, the average annual salary of a non-factory woodworker is $31,000 – not a sustainable salary these days.
2. Introducing our solution – Brian Boggs Chairmakers: Who We Are
Brian Boggs has been designing and making chairs for 31 years. Teaching himself to design and
make the quality chair he envisioned, he not only demanded much of himself but also of his tools. Of necessity he designed high-caliber tools that are now sold internationally through Lie Nielsen Toolworks in Maine. As one of the co-founders of Greenwood Global, he organized a woodworking effort in Honduras and Peru that now produce chairs instead of selling logs and depleting the rain forest. Through practice and experimentation he has created an innovative variety of systems and equipment in use in his own shop. In addition to creating over a dozen chair designs and many unique table configurations, he has written numerous articles on chairmaking and tools for America’s top woodworking publications. During the past 20 years he has been invited to teach week-long workshops at woodworking schools across the US, Canada, England, Peru and Honduras and has trained over a dozen employees and apprentices in his own production shop.
Melanie Moeller Boggs has been working internationally for 20 plus years consulting businesses in organizational development and cultural change. The tools and programs she facilitated were hard- won efforts in shifting entrenched practices to new levels of awareness that are aligned with their values, missions and visions. Her areas of expertise include leadership coaching, implementing cultural transformation and facilitation in areas such as team cohesion, personal and professional transformation and values alignment. She has facilitated leadership teams around the world in project management, strategic planning and team building and in creating visions, missions and values with organizations such as ING Bank, Physical Electronics Inc. USA, Comcast Spotlight and Hewitt Associates. In working with Brian as a client to establish a strategic plan for his new business vision, it quickly became apparent that what each of them was trying to achieve in their respective arenas was very much in line. After considering the potential they each brought to the picture, they partnered in life and business to create Brian Boggs Chairmakers.
Brian Boggs Chairmakers, Inc. (BBC) is a strategically designed furniture-making ecosystem – an interconnected, mutually-supportive network which works to the benefit of the whole woodworking community. The elements of the system include two people with extraordinary skills and expertise and a shared dream of doing business in a whole new way, woodworkers who are talented and passionate producers of fine furniture, timber suppliers who choose to sustainably manage their forest resources, discerning clients who seek finely handcrafted furniture made from responsibly sourced woods and a supportive infrastructure which allows each element to satisfy its needs and thrive.
3. Principles of Redesign
a) Create stable and sustainable sources of inventoried wood
Increasing and supplying our demand for sustainable wood is enabling our forest providers to have a more stable source of business and a more sustainable cash flow. We are currently networking with urban arborists, forest managers and loggers, sawyers, and kiln dryers. Inventory management is guided by our own needs as well as those indicated by regional woodworkers who we supply. Our lumber business is up and running now with a solid inventory of fine timbers sourced locally and sustainably managed Honduran mahogany.
b) Appropriate use of production technology
Where appropriate, use state-of-the-art manufacturing technology to lower production cost and reduce the lead time of certain furniture components or complete designs. At the other end of the spectrum we will train craftsmen in efficient ways of producing by hand. Maintaining custom production by master craftsmen in addition to high-volume options will keep our company nimble and diverse in its offerings. Encouraging learning from and between each of these parts of the spectrum will keep our company on top of all facets of the furniture production business.
c) How Scale Helps Solve the Problem
Key to the success of any company is cash flow, and for us that comes down to our capacity to produce and sell. A solid marketing effort without significant increases to our ability to produce could be our demise. While we are working on developing new talent and adding master craftsmen to our team, the lag time in getting a new craftsman producing profitably creates the need for faster turnaround to augment our studio production. Recognizing this fact has motivated Brian to design our Sunniva outdoor line, the Sonus Musician’s chair and the Lily dinning room collection. These are all designed with the same attention to detail while holding in mind different production needs and capacities to produce them. Designing and building his own seat carver and other machines allows us to provide the quality and consistency without having to outsource. In-house machines and process engineering allows us to market more aggressively to a wider audience and meet that demand for our furniture. Assembling these pieces in house will give us an inside look at the quality of work and allow us to ensure that our clients are consistently getting the top quality that our reputation guarantees. This proposal to increase our production could be compared to moving from a micro-brewery model to a larger craft beer production system. Tight quality controls and premium materials, while producing larger volumes, will ensure our success.
d) Use apprentices for hand wrought production items
While we will be offering some work that will be produced more so through in-house designed and built equipement, not all designs lend themselves to that model. Hiring makers for the Sunniva outdoor line will create a point of entry. Those that show interest and promise will have the opportunity to hone their skills and move into building our hand-wrought production lines under the guidance of senior members (currently Brian Boggs and Andy Rae), much like the old master/apprentice models. Some of these younger craftsmen may develop into designers; others will help us in our continual development of efficient production techniques for hand-made furniture.
e) Implement royalty program for designers for the creation of original work
One of our goals is to create a situation where each member can focus on what they do best. Our business model embraces varying levels of talent and experience, which allows us to delegate design and production opportunities to those with that ability. With each individual working at the top of their game we will keep the whole company moving forward competitively, yet operating internally as an incubator of individual genius. Having a role for designers to develop products that can be produced by our studio craftsmen, or manufactured, creates a royalty income stream to support their creativity and livelihood.
f) Develop a strong catalog to build sales
By continuously adding new lines from our designers to our catalog we increase sales to new and old clients and increase royalties to our designer craftsmen. The larger scale will help us lower unit costs for administration and marketing.
g) Let the company provide basic supports: admin, marketing, electronic outreach etc.
With the craftsmen focused on production, a separate marketing and admin team will work to build more effective systems, and hire top-notch marketing and web expertise to build a first- class marketing presence.
4. The Design/Build Eco-system
We are building an ecosystem that maximizes creativity and learning, meets member needs, satisfies marketplace demand, adheres to high standards of quality and sustainability and achieves the financial performance necessary to sustain its success. While each piece of this ecosystem is seen in many larger furniture production companies, what we have put together establishes the heart and soul of studio craftsmanship as the driver of design innovation and the monitor of quality standards, from lumber production to assembly.
There are many ways in which this high-quality standard shows up in our current work. And it is the spirit of this work and the caliber of design and craftsmanship that have kept our clients returning for decades to invest in our furniture and thus in our mission. The success of this new business model will greatly depend on how well we are able to maintain this same caliber of craftsmanship. This is why we will keep our focus on sustaining the small-scale furniture studios even as we partner with state-of-the-art producers. We see this as an important and mutually supportive team building and business-building strategy.
5. Who Benefits and How
What we are building is a model for reinvigorating American studio furniture making. Our work could also have significant impact on American furniture manufacturing as it grows. What we are building is a company that serves to stabilize woodworking careers and give craftsmen a solid infrastructure that supports their development and success while maintaining the health of our forests and the production of the highest quality furniture.
 Craft Central – http://www.craftcentral.com/craft-industry.html