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The Definitive Blog for Fine Furniture & Design

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Tapping Into Dreams

  
  
  
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We have a program at Thos. Moser called Customer-in-Residence (CIR), which takes place monthly from April through November each year. We just wrapped for May, and our David Moser was reminded of how inspiring it is to watch the professionals who take time from their busy schedules to travel to Maine and make furniture. Here's how the program has made an impact on his thinking:

"I’m always enthused to hear what they have to say at the end of their week because most times they speak about how “big” the experience was for them, which blows my mind because we are talking about people who’ve reached the stratosphere in their careers in finance or management, manufacturing and myriad other professions.

"What strikes me as so phenomenal about this is that we in the America are largely a culture divorced from the natural environment, as so many of us have stopped working with our hands. When you think about it, there are three materials that bind us to our roots: wood, clay and stone—these are the three elemental substances that have been used since the dawn of man, whether early earth dwellers were grinding them up to create something for survival or carving them into deities.
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"We at Thos. Moser are hardwired to leave a legacy using one of those malleable materials, and there’s a halo effect for the cabinetmakers. They see someone who is successful, say, as a hedge fund professional and who could spend time anywhere in the world but chose to spend it making a piece of furniture with them. During the signing ceremony, we shut the shop down so that the sense of pride can be honored. This really means something to those participating in our CIR and to the cabinetmakers as well.

"It hit home to me how important the experiential aspect of what we are building is during an auction at the Maritime Museum a while back. We decided rather than simply giving the institution another chair to auction off, we would have people bid on the chance to come to the shop and make one. The opportunity received so much more attention than the chair would have because we tapped into people’s dreams."

Here's to New Sidekicks!

  
  
  
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Every once in a while, we enjoy tossing out a good challenge to those who are new at cutting a swath in design. What better venue to host said task than a college like the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM)? Ten class members from the Interior Design program at the Los Angeles and San Francisco campuses participated in our design challenge charging them with creating an original piece of furniture in the Moser style, one which would complement our Lolling chair.

The Design Committee Awards for the “New Sidekick for the Moser Lolling Chair” were given to San Francisco student Meghan Carozza and Los Angeles student Maelee Lungren, who is pictured above. FIDM will fly the two young designers to Maine to meet with our cabinetmakers and to take a workshop tour. San Francisco student Jamie Clugston and Los Angeles student Mark Griffin received the Interior Design ASID Industry Award during the competition.

Ryan Campbell, who won the People’s Choice Award for his dog bed design, had this to say in the FIDM Magazine, "Working with Thos. Moser on this design challenge was an amazing experience. We as a group were all very supportive of each other's designs, and all shared our advice. I am very proud of ourselves as a collective group, and was impressed with how wide a range our designs were." We at Thos. Moser are also mightily impressed with the ingenuity and the vision these students brought to their designs. Congratulations to each of you!

A Room with a Cue

  
  
  
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There is an old adage that hard work has its rewards. Our handcrafted furnishings definitely bring us immense personal satisfaction but it’s always an extra boost when we are recognized for our quality from sources other than within. We just learned that our Thomas Moser room at the Harraseeket Inn has received the Editors’ Choice Award for Best Designer Room in Maine by Yankee Magazine! Not only is our furniture ensconced in the room, we had the opportunity to decorate the space as well.
 
Here’s what the editorial team at the magazine had to say: "For fans of Shaker-inspired furniture, staying in the Harraseeket's chic Thomas Moser Room is a treat. This oversized space, decorated by Moser's team, blends traditional and contemporary designs accented with works by Maine artists." Now, that's what we call a referral!

Reverse Engineering

  
  
  
2808 31 lrRGB resized 600Spring is coming on in earnest and there’s a phenomenon taking place all across the country as antique lovers shake off the winter doldrums and prepare to hunt and gather at a long list of outdoor antique fairs from coast to coast. Brimfield Antique Show, one of the largest in the northeast, opens this week and we can feel the energy as the design community prepares to invade the bucolic countryside for a feast of patinas and panache!

We have a few antiques lovers amongst our crew here at Thos. Moser, chief among them Tom and Mary Moser. Given their passion for and knowledge of certain types of antiques, we’re always curious to see what Tom would snap up were he combing the alleyways of some of these overflowing outposts!

A penchant for time-honored designs began for our founder when he was attending graduate school at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He would buy broken antiques and refurbish them for resale as an avenue of income to support him and his young wife Mary. “At one point, I had 27 busted-up grandfather clocks in baskets!” he says, shaking his head. “I would work on them all through grad school, selling them off when we needed money!” 

Tom and Mary also owned an antique shop in Cortland, New York, when they moved their young family there, continuing their hunt for and satisfying their fascination with historical designs. In case you think it’s all about aesthetics, Tom believes there are deeper reasons to interact with furniture fashioned by accomplished hands: “I guess you might say I learned how to make things by reverse engineering—by taking things apart and putting them back together, which means I learned my craft from the people who made these things originally.” 

As the fields green and the trees sprout their leaves, we at Thos. Moser salute these skilled craftsmen and -women who took their tools to wood, stone and other materials in order to express their nature in their designs. Let’s go antiquing! 

Steering a Sure Course

  
  
  
DMoser in Sofia chair lrRGB resized 600The most historic and revered museums in history are filled with artists who refused to sit still, and we’re not suggesting it wasn’t for want of a comfortable chair! We’re talking about creativity and how the restless artists among the world’s amplified names could not have imagined finding a “style” that brought them critical and financial success only to sit back and watch the checks roll in! Where would we be without Picasso’s forays into Cubism or Cezanne’s devotion to putting his representational view of nature on canvas, spurring a movement we call “Expressionism”? What if Gauguin had decided living in Tahiti was too much trouble or too dangerous? Entire periods of art would have produced fewer dimensions!

During a conversation with David Moser, it becomes clear that he is brimming with a similar desire to foster a continuum of tried-and-true ideas that find freshness in reinterpretations. “I’m restless and vexed: I’m not at peace at all,” he says of this drive to create, a restlessness that finds release in the making of a thing—the rare moments when peace does come.

Quoting Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said, “A mind, once expanded by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions,” he illustrates the value in having cut his teeth in an artisanal environment and in paying close attention to other iconic craftsmen. “Sam Maloof is in the rocking chair he designed, and his California Roundover was revolutionary. Others who’ve made a mark are John Makepeace, Art Carpenter and Nakashima—these are guys who brought a post-industrial focus to the craft.” Picking a piece of sawdust from the sleeve of his shirt, which had drifted there during his morning explorations in wood, he said, “Before that, furniture resided in a pigeonhole.”
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His next statement further reveals just how complex the task of steering a sure course can become for a company with a unique focus: “Last year, I visited Crabtree Farm near Chicago to see the largest collection of Stickley furniture. I went through the entire collection and as I descended a flight of stairs into the basement for the very last bit of what was there, I saw a selection of Gustav Stickley’s designs that were sculptural. These were hidden away in the basement—the last pieces you saw when you took the tour and ones representing his attempts to step outside the norm.”

Asking questions as to why this furniture was not as popular or successful as the designs for which Stickley has become lauded are ones that occupy David’s thoughts as he is putting his pencil to paper and fashioning new collections for Thos. Moser. “History teaches us lessons,” he remarks. “We just have to learn to interpret them within our own paradigms and be wise enough to trust that we can steer our way through the tumults."

Color Us Radiant!

  
  
  

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We’re in quite the artful mood this week with several showroom exhibitions opening. Last night Judy Taylor wowed the crowd by sharing her work in portraits and murals with the lucky attendees at our Freeport showroom event. Tonight, Robert and Julian Cardinal will attend a reception featuring their dramatic works in our Boston showroom, a portion of the proceeds of the sales benefiting the Fenway Community Health Center (the image above is Robert Cardinal's Charles River). The event from 6 to 8 pm will bring visual delights to our 19 Arlington Street address, as the Cardinals’ compositions awash in drenching color will infuse the showroom with a lively verve!

Maine Event: Judy Taylor at Thos. Moser

  
  
  
14789 c346210e0e09ce5b03366a3d16be09f7 resized 600We’re thrilled to be hosting an exhibition by artist Judy Taylor at our Thos. Moser Freeport showroom (149 Main Street) and we hope you’ll stop in for an opening reception tomorrow, May 4th, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., if you’re in town. Judy will present a slideshow and talk about the inspiration for her work, including the mural she created for the Maine Department of Labor—a commissioned piece entitled “The History of Labor in Maine.”

Our friends at Maine Magazine note that the Judy Taylor Studio & Gallery in Seal Cove, Maine, is a “gem of a gallery.” Taylor is trained in the classic atelier tradition, her portraits, landscapes, figurative works and public art outpourings of a richly led artist’s life; and with summer workshops in Maine and spring workshops in Italy a vibrant view of the world shines through in her work. The exhibition in our Freeport showroom extends from April 29 through May 31 so please stop in even at some point if you cant make the opening.

There's Just Something About Maine...

  
  
  
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“We fell in love with Maine during our second honeymoon,” says Tom Moser. “So much in life is historical accident!” The Thos. Moser story, in fact, swims with historical accidents of sorts—memories of the jagged coastline of the upper reaches of the continental U.S. calling a young couple back to its frothing waters and woods, a woodworking tradition in Maine serving as an inspiration for Tom’s aspirations, and the last extant shaker village near where the couple decided to settle drawing Tom again and again as he studied the fine craftsmanship that he held in the highest esteem. 

“I was a first generation American—my mom was German and my father was Austrian—both settled in Milwaukee,” Tom explains. “I met Mary in high school and we knew we wanted to leave because the suburban culture was all about acquisition. Fashion has a life cycle of a season and we didn’t agree with what we were seeing. We left when we were 18, and once we had visited Maine, we discovered the Northeastern values and felt very much at home with them.”

Everyone who flocks to the state in the winter to snow ski or in the summer to enjoy our dramatic coastline sees what’s the most obvious to everyone about why we love being a part of this great state. I guess it’s one of Maine’s best-kept little secrets that the true depth of our love for where we live—the beautiful snow-packed mountains and craggy coastline notwithstanding—is its artisanal heart!

Showing Off Our Earthy Side

  
  
  
 

To have and to holdAsk any of our cabinetmakers whether we have an earthy side and you’ll likely get a nod and a smile. We’ve instituted some important initiatives in our shop that make us feel good when celebrations like Earth Day come around. We’ve fully transitioned to a system of “lean manufacturing,” which means we keep the stock trimmed down to "just what’s needed, when it's needed", rather than filling our shelves copious amounts of lumber taking up space for indefinite periods of time. We make the most out of a minimum, which, after all, is the essence of good design!

 Sanding a componentWe’ve also installed vacuum systems or downdraft tables on many of our machines to keep the dust down, an important step because it improves the working conditions for our cabinetmakers who are dedicated to creating our finely-crafted furniture. “We’re very conscious of dust,” says cabinetmaker Mike Beaumont, who’s been with Thos. Moser for 6 years; “keeping it to a minimum is a priority!” We’ve also instituted a misting system that keeps the shop’s humidity at an optimum level for both our workers and our wood. We see these two as inseparable in our world: it's kind of like a horse and carriage—where would one be without the other?

 

Cherry and ash, crafted to lastWe are proud of our stewardship of forest resources, exemplified by our choices of American black cherry, walnut, and ash hardwoods as the medium with which we craft our original furniture designs. Our creations are intended to outlast the lifecycle of the trees from which they originate, ensuring that the supply will not be outstripped by demand. We love that our timber supplies are certified by either the Forest Stewardship Council or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and travel less than 500 miles from forest to shop.

 Are you doing something special to celebrate Earth Day this Friday?  Please leave a comment; we’d love to know about it!

Grading on the Curve

  
  
  
Inspired by the female form, we at Thos. Moser have always been fascinated by shapeliness. Case in point are our curvaceous chairs with beautiful waistlines, think Aria or the Pasadena dining chairs.
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Aria
 
Carved from a single piece of wood, the Aria chair is more sculpted than assembled, the curves and angles beckoning the touch of a hand as the ripples of the stunning pleated back bring visual and tactile pleasure. At first glance, the hourglass lines of the Aria chair evoke a more glamorous age when Old-World design influences met a newly minted urbane American public. Upon closer examination, you’ll see that the Aria Collection has much in common with the soft patterns etched by the sea on a sandy shore: gentle ridges and undulating crescents that tease the eye with familiarity making pieces in this line perfect companions for any furniture with a more rectilinear form.
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Pasadena
 
Pablo Picasso said, “Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.” While it is true that in the creative field of furniture-making a fully realized design may emerge spontaneously, it is far more common to be on the workbench for some time before the balance and perfect form emerge. Often, the more original the design, the longer the experimental process, and it is our respect for this discipline that allowed David Moser the freedom to build and rebuild our new Pasadena designs until he knew they were right. David began exploring the nuances of the chair by using hand tools in combination with state-of-the-art technology to see what depth of movement he could coax out of solid cherry. From that genesis, the entire Pasadena Collection evolved into its sculpted state and proof that we succeeded is evident in the fact that the Pasadena dining chair received Interior Design magazine’s Best of Year Award in the Residential Dining Chair category in 2008. The nod caught quite a bit of attention, such as this effusive post by Paul Anater, which made us smile!
 
Do you have a favorite Thos. Moser chair? We love to know which one and what attracts you to it!
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