New England Begins 1620-1730 Colonial Expressions in the Georgian Era 1730-1790 Neoclassicism in the New Nation 1790-1840 Industry, Innovation, and Tradition 1835-1950 Reaction and Reform 1870-1945 The Factory and the Studio 1920-2013

As the twentieth century progressed, the landscape of furniture making in Massachusetts became more diverse. more

In the World

  • 1929Beginning of the Great Depression
  • 1941Bombing of Pearl Harbor
  • 1972Watergate scandalizes the nation

In Massachusetts

  • 1927Execution of Sacco and Vanzetti
  • 1974School desegregation in Boston
  • 2004Red Sox win the World Series (after waiting 86 years)

The Factory and the Studio

In the Studio, 1945-2013

Studio furniture has been an important part of the furniture-making community in Massachusetts during the last fifty years.  This type of furniture is made in a small shop operated by a single artist working with a limited number of assistants and generally producing “one-of-a-kind” objects or objects in small series. In a state that has always valued education and fostered individuality, the independent, sometimes counter-culture mentality of the studio crafts movement found a fertile field.

North Bennet Street School student

A student works on a chair at the North Bennet Street School.

The studio furniture field is divided into two broad groups, though individual artists may embrace both types. One group treasures and keeps alive the forms and techniques of the handcrafted era of early American furniture, characterized by members of The Society of American Period Furniture Makers. The second group of studio makers create furniture in a wide variety of individualistic artistic expressions, typified by many members of The Furniture Society.

During this period, furniture-making classes, often taught by studio furniture makers, have been an important part of the curriculum in many Massachusetts colleges and universities, including the North Bennet Street School in Boston, Boston’s University’s Program in Artisanry (now located at the University of Massachusetts/Dartmouth), Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and many others.  Many students from these programs have migrated to other locations, helping spread the studio furniture movement across the country.

Selected Bibliography

  • American Craft (1978–  ); published by the American Craft Council; titled Craft Horizons from 1941-78.
  • American Period Furniture:  Journal of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers (2001–).
  • Antonsen, Lasse B., et al.  Craft Transformed:  Program in Artisanry.  Brockton, Mass.:  Fuller Museum of Art, 2003.
  • Cooke, Edward S., Jr.  New American Furniture:  The Second Generation of Studio Furniture Makers.  Boston:  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1989.
  • Cooke, Edward S., Jr., Gerald W.R. Ward, and Kelly H. L’Ecuyer, with the assistance of Pat Warner.  The Maker’s Hand:  American Studio Furniture, 1940-1990.  Boston:  MFA Publications, 2003.
  • Koplos, Janet, and Bruce Metcalf.  Makers:  A History of American Studio Craft. Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 2011.
  • Lauria, Jo, and Steve Fenton.  Craft in America:  Celebrating Two Centuries of Artists and Objects.  New York:  Clarkson Potter, 2007.


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