This spring Dan Mosheim
celebrated thirty-five years in the studio furniture business. At such a
benchmark, his portfolio is extensive, award-winning and happily
installed in public and private spaces across the country.
Dan’s blog A Woodworkers Photo Journal
chronicles the work at Dorset Custom Furniture
. And as a reader of the blog could expect, there was lots to see, learn and take in when we visited last month.
Since Dan’s furniture catalog is deep in volume and stylistically
diverse, it was really difficult to choose a finished piece or two to
feature here. We settled on ‘Bridges
for its aesthetic and design story. The bench was Dorset Custom
Furniture’s contribution to the Bennington Museum exhibition ‘State of
Craft’ a few years back.
The bench design was partly inspired by Dan’s grandfather, Irvin
Seeders, a bridge riveter for Bethlehem Steel for 52 years. And the
design and fabrication was a collaborative effort between Dan (b. 1947)
and his two sons, Sam and Will. “Sam did the steel work and green
paint, Will did the burning and finishing, and I roughed out the
recycled oak wood, worked on assembly and the conceptual stuff.” Typical
Dorset Custom Furniture, dividing the jobs up according to specialty,
resulting in a piece that’s totally unique, with a measurable WOW
factor. Since then, a really cool line of Bethlehem Steel
studio pieces has emerged.
The DCF Family is five. Or six. Five guys making furniture. And one
guy making instruments. Trevor’s been with Dan since 2006 and he’s the
resident CNC master. Check out his work.
Chris is the newest to join the group, a very competent woodworker (recent project here
) who’s worked on his own, and also with Guild Member Bill Laberge
who has a shop down the street.
And Jim Parsons (a.k.a Mr Lucky) we didn’t get to meet. Dan says he’s the Vice President of ‘lightness and humor’ in the shop
. A talented woodworker and glass blower, the two have worked together on an off for many years. Jim rounds out the DCF crew.
There were a few projects underway when we visited, and some ready to
ship. Will was working out a neck for a five string open back banjo.
“It’s all Vermont native wood – cherry and hardhack — and themed
inlays,” he told us. A few years ago, Will had been working in the
furniture shop and making instruments on the side. As an accomplished
player (see Gold Town
) it was a natural fit and after a blush of first orders, he shifted his title to full-time luthier.
Of course there are similarities between furniture and instrument
making. The design process, the client relationship, the way past
projects inform new experiences… all shared elements with the addition
of one, the performance requirement.
“Right. It has to make music.” Will laughed. But then he leaned in,
and said earnestly, “I put my heart and soul into my instruments,
touching, making every piece. I consider where it’s going, how the
person will use it. And I think people like knowing that some presence
of the maker is there.” Will explained that he’ll even tackle the metal
hardware eventually. “I’ll find time to work out that process with my
brother, next door, and that will really set my work apart.” We liked
his approach but had to let him know we think he’s already there… You
can see for yourself at Seeders Instruments
And the ‘next door’ Will referred to? That’s his brother’s metal shop… Sam Mosheim Metalwork
“I taught myself welding,” Sam told us. “I had a couple of friends
who studied sculptural metal work and I’ve learned from them. You get to
know the basics,” he says. “And then it’s just about practice. And more
practice and more practice.” Sam’s been working metal full time for
about five years. Each project is basically a custom job and he takes
those, most of the time, from start to finish; design to installation.
With a really solid and diverse catalog of work, clients and
contractors are inspired to request a drawing with their own
customization. “Part of the process is figuring it out. And each time
you learn from it and become better and better.” No doubt, as you’re out
tooling around Southern Vermont, you’ll start to spot Sam’s work here
and there… railings, porches, balconies
sign posts, you name it. Just beautiful stuff. And his contribution to
the DCF catalog has been pretty profound, and popular. The guys are
cranking out fantastic slab tables with steel bases
that have heft, shimmer and lightness all at once.
And when Sam’s not working in the shop, he’s gone fishing. That’s guaranteed.
headed out, we reconnected with Dan, almost embarrassed to ask if he
would choose a favorite project. Easy going in response, he offered up a
library. A job from scratch. “We cut the wood from the clients land in
Glastonbury, built the library in Arlington, assembled and finished it
in Cambridge. Then we took it apart, put in on a truck and drove it down
to New York, where we suspended it like a half inch inside an 18×22
room. It took the better part of year from start to finish.” Wide-eyed
but not surprised, this seems exactly like the thing Dorset Custom
Furniture would do. Totally custom, unsurpassed quality and no limit to
the vision or execution. And it seems like a reasonable project for Dan
to choose. But (and there’s always a but) after scrolling through pages
of blog content, we think he’s got a sweet spot for pool tables, too.
And what does Dan do when he’s not in the shop? He’s busy living. “Now,
what have we got and where are we???? Almost 40 years in the same
geographic area, unbelievably interesting clients/friends, a great shop,
a great place to live, fantastic gardens by Kit, two great and talented
kids working with us, a little time for golf and tennis … What more
could a person ask for? I’d say the ‘State of Craft’ on Goodwood Lane is
pretty good right now. I realized this morning I have to occasionally
stop and appreciate how lucky I’ve been to have been involved with the
‘State of Craft’ … It’s been a good ‘state’ for me ….”
And hearing Dan’s thoughts and understanding his story, I’d have to venture that it’s been good for us, too… Dorset Custom Furniture
is a real life feel good story. It’s about Vermont. About art and
creativity, and what’s possible. It’s about a talented family, devoted
to design, quality and one another.
May we propose a toast … to 35 years in business… To collaboration, community and to keeping the state of craft alive!
Find Dorset Custom Furniture work on our website and on Facebook
. And if you’re interested, bookmark Dan’s blog
site and keep up with him there.