A pair of masters
Jere Osgood sits in his living room. Within sight are several small end tables, a settee, a set of dining chairs and a hutch with the elegant sloping lines that Osgood, a master furniture maker, is known for incorporating into his works. Still, when asked how many of his own works are displayed in his home, he replies with a simple shrug and a casual,
“Not many.” Most of his pieces, he said, are sold to make his living, and don’t find a permanent home with him. “And that never bothered me,” he added. “I had the excitement of designing and making the piece and you can’t sell that.”
Osgood, along with another local furniture maker, Bill Thomas of Rindge, will be showing their works during a Furniture Master’s exhibition at the N.H. Historical Society in Concord. The duo are two of only fourteen artisans that will be featured in the showing, which will run throughout the month of July.
Osgood is not new to the furniture making business, he said in an interview in his Wilton home and workshop last week. “I’ve been making things since I was 8 years old,” he recalled. “Growing up, various family members all had a workshop. I grew up with the idea that everybody had a workshop.”
Osgood first started his career doing cabinet work, but eventually transitioned into a full-time career making furniture in a contemporary style. Osgood is particularly known for his desks, particularly those that have a sloping design reminiscent of a nutshell or a dome. It’s a design Osgood has returned to several time over the course of his career, and was originally inspired by the work of a student of his, he explained. While teaching, he had one student making a lute. The process was a long one, and Osgood had to continually check the work. “I almost got sick of looking at it,” he said. “But I realized that, ‘You’re looking at something interesting. So keep looking.’”
Those curving lines are indicative of Osgood’s work he said.
“I do a lot of thinking about a piece. I think in pictures, and that can go on between three weeks and three years. I am known for my shaping details. It’s very important to me to spend time with a piece.”
Indeed, said Osgood, he may only produce up to six or seven pieces a year, if they’re small, and a desk like the ones he’s known for might take between three and four months to create.
“I’ve never been speedy. Some people may say that ‘s not very productive, but it is if it’s a smashing piece,” Osgood said with a grin. “The desks are all individuals.”
And as a result of the time and effort that is poured into each piece, and because each piece is individual, the price on, for example, one of Osgood’s custom desks can range from anywhere between $20,000 and $40,000.
“That’s something that’s hard to understand unless you’re in another tax bracket,” said Osgood. “But it’s a reflection of something that takes months to make.”
And for those that cannot affort that kind of expense, he added, he hopes that they can at least see the value in the artistry of the kind of furniture that will be featured in the N.H. Historical Society’s exhibition.
“If the public can appreciate the work, that would be what I’d like. I think it’s important people understand there’s a group of people out there making things with great care and a really professional level. There aren’t many of us.”
Bill Thomas of Rindge has been making furniture since 1979, and is particularly drawn to designs from the 18th century, both reproductions of classic pieces and new designs that emulate the period masters.
“If you can build period furniture you can build anything else a client might require of you,” wrote Thomas in an email interview. “I grew up in a family that loves antiques, so American period furniture naturally appeals to me.”
Most of Thomas’ work is done custom for individual clients. While sometimes, the client comes in knowing what it is they are looking for, other times, Thomas helps them discover what it is they want in a piece. And because each piece is individual to the client, Thomas enjoys the challenge of changing up the design elements, wood types and decoration with every new piece he creates.
Thomas does all of the work individually, by hand, and is known for his inlay work, such as is visible in the table that he submitted to the N.H. Furniture Masters show, and his decorative carving.
“This is the value of hand made furniture: A client has a need for a piece, but there isn’t anything out there already made which suits the use or location. The client comes to me and together we create a design which fits exactly with no compromises.” wrote Thomas. “There’s nothing mass produced that comes close to the quality of hand made furniture.”
Osgood and Thomas’ furniture will be on display at 30 Park Street in Concord through July 31. For more information on Osgood and Thomas or the Furniture Masters’ exhibition, visit williamthomas-furniture.com, or www.furnituremasters.org.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.