Changing the Landscape of Studio Furniture
Provide world-class furniture to the market place. Design and build original furniture. Support and educate a growing worldwide cadre of connoisseurs. Train craftsmen to fulfill the demand.
Vision and role:
Our Vision is to inspire a genuine culture of excellence in the furniture industry. Our goal is to create a seamless infrastructure, connecting clients to a fully integrated system of production. That system supports forest and urban ecosystems while also providing work for highly trained craftsmen. By educating our client base, we make every sale a conscious investment in the long-term health of our economy and ecology.
At its core is the creation of a responsive and inclusive new model of supply and demand. Well-informed consumers can invest in high-quality furniture for their home with a sense of community, authenticity and optimism. Brian Boggs Chairmakers works with diverse partners, woodworkers, forest managers, interior designers and galleries of common purpose to forge a new business culture. Our role is to empower collaboration, demonstrating the expanding social, economic and environmental benefits of a conscious business model.
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 close to collapse in today’s marketplace.
If we as a nation are to preserve anything but a “mass-manufactured” kind of artistry, then our current approach simply isn’t good enough. Brian Boggs Chairmakers was created to find a better way. It is our belief that the idea of handmade has great relevance in our lives and an important role to play even in large-scale production. That is, the marketplace battle between manufactured and handmade products need not exist. We can embrace both in mutually supportive model, recognizing the value that each can bring to the American way of life.
I. Why the Existing “Studio” Model Doesn’t Work
One doesn’t have to look far to find woodworkers who cannot support themselves by their craft. Many who are skilled in the creative and production aspects of their work do not have the skills or time required to also manage and market their trade. Then there are other difficulties: lack of funds to get started, or of the time it takes to hone skills and build a name, or of a supportive community of peers and suppliers. For the rare few who succeed, the average salary of a non-factory woodworker is $31,000 – which is hardly life-sustaining earnings these days.
2. Introducing Our Solution – Brian Boggs Chairmakers: Who We Are
Brian Boggs has been designing and making chairs since 1983. Since then, he has made a name for himself not only as a largely self-taught master chairmaker, but as a designer of tools. Of necessity to create the caliber of chair he envisioned, he designed high-caliber tools that are now sold internationally through Lie Nielsen Toolworks in Maine. 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.
Brian’s life story has also been intertwined with efforts to save the world’s diminishing tropical rain forests. As one of the co-founders of Greenwood Global, he organized a woodworking effort in Honduras and Peru that empowers small communities to sustainably produce furniture instead of selling logs or clearcutting for cattle and depleting the natural abundance of their ecosystem.
Melanie Moeller Boggs has been working internationally for 20 plus years, consulting businesses in organizational development and cultural change. She facilitated tools and programs which shift entrenched practices to new levels of awareness, aligning businesses’ culture and efforts with their values, missions and visions. Her areas of expertise include leadership coaching, implementing cultural transformation, and facilitating team cohesion, personal and professional transformation and values alignment. She has worked with leadership teams around the world in project management, strategic planning and team building and in clarifying visions, missions and values for 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, it quickly became apparent that what each of them was trying to achieve in their own arenas was very much in line. After considering the potential and perspective they each brought, 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 benefit the whole woodworking community. That ecosystem includes two people with an extraordinary shared dream, 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 grants forest providers 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 whom we supply. Our lumber business is up and running now with a solid inventory of fine locally sourced timbers and sustainably managed Honduran mahogany.
b) Appropriate use of production technology
Where appropriate, we 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 train craftsmen in efficient ways of producing by hand. Maintaining custom production by master craftsmen in addition to high-volume options keeps our company nimble and diverse in its offerings. Learning from each part of the spectrum keeps our company on top of all facets of the furniture production business.
c) Scale helps solve the problem
Cash flow is key to the success of any company, and for us that comes down to our capacity to produce and sell. Any solid marketing effort without significant increase to our production capacity could spell our demise. While we develop new talent and add master craftsmen to our team, the time investment creates a need for faster turnaround to augment our studio production. This 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 phenomenal attention, yet keep in mind different production needs and capacities.
Designing and building his own seat carver and other machines also allows us to provide consistent quality without having to outsource. In-house machines and process engineering allow us to market more aggressively to a wider audience and meet that demand for our furniture. Doing prep work through in-house machines gives us total quality control, ensuring that our clients consistently get the top quality that our reputation guarantees. Increasing our production could then be compared to moving from a micro-brewery model to a larger craft beer production system. While producing larger volumes, tight quality controls and premium materials will ensure our success.
d) Use apprentices for hand wrought production items
Not all designs lend themselves to being produced by apprentices in training. 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 , 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) Develop a strong catalog to build sales
The addition of new lines to our catalog increases sales to new and old clients. The larger scale will help us lower unit costs for administration and marketing.
f) Let the company provide basic supports: admin, marketing, electronic outreach etc.
With the craftsmen focused on production, a separate marketing and admin team works to support their efforts, including 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, our model 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.
Ultimately, it is the spirit of our 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 our new business model depends on maintaining our caliber of craftsmanship. We see this as an important and unchanging aspect of our business-building strategy.
5. Who Benefits and How
We are building a model for reinvigorating American studio furniture, and our work could also grow to have a significant impact on American furniture manufacturing. We are building a company that stabilizes woodworking careers and gives craftsmen a solid infrastructure. We believe our efforts can support their development and success while maintaining the health of our forests, our economy, and the production of the highest quality furniture.
 Craft Central – http://www.craftcentral.com/craft-industry.html