NESAW in the News

October/November 2012 Issue, American Woodworker
This cabinetmaking-themed issue (image at right) features a series of articles by NESAW director Greg Larson.

October 18, 2010 Easthampton Gazette
"HIgh-end sales, distant markets help area millwork firms prosper "
At least one sector of the local economy is gaining strength, using a business model of catering to well-padded clients, many of them in Boston, New York City and Long Island.

Two of Northampton's largest millwork and custom woodshops report that, despite dreary economic indicators for much of the country, their businesses have weathered the past two years and picked up steam over the past 10 months. Wright Architectural Millwork and VCA Inc, both say modest hiring may even follow. continue

April 9, 2009 Easthampton Summit
"Woodworkers Showcase Projects, Prospects"
The New England School of Architectural Woodworking holds its annual open house April 16 at 3 pm. Greg and Margaret Larson, who purchased the 14-year-old school last year, will be showcasing students' final projects, including a banquette for the offices of radio station WRSI and a new podium for the Norris School in Southampton, built to specifications for Principal William Collins. continue

March 26, 2009 ISW Online Business Brief
"NESAW Director Focuses on Technology, Skill Standards and Partnerships"
The New England School of Architectural Woodworking (NESAW) is making changes to better prepare the school and its graduates for the challenges of cabinetmaking int he 21st century, according to Greg Larson, the school's new director. Larson is adding to and upgrading NESAW's woodworking equipment and facilities, improving training on topics such as panel fabrication, veneering and understand the characteristics of wood, and forging new industry relationships. continue

March, 2008 Woodshop News
" NESAW Open House Draws the Career-Minded"
The New England School of Architectural Woodworking in Easthampton, Mass. held its annual open house April 5, to recruit and educate new and prospective students. The school, which focuses on a wide range of woodworking skills such as cabinetmaking and furniture making, had roughly two dozen inquiring visitors. continue

March 25, 2007 The Republican
" School Mixes Art, Work to Teach Cabinetmaking"
Dean L. Brown came to learn cabinetmaking at New England Architectural Woodworking after 20 years of living in Brooklyn, N.Y., and working as an artist and photographer. Stephen Ogg, of Granby, came to the school to try something different after 10 years of doing technical field service work on postage meters and computer mailing systems. And Barry Kozaczka, a native of Springfield now living in Easthampton, came to hone his skills after working in the building trades for a number of years. continue

 

October 10, 2010 Easthampton Gazette
"HIgh-end sales, distant markets help area millwork firms prosper"
At least one sector of the local economy is gaining strength, using a business model of catering to well-padded clients, many of them in Boston, New York City and Long Island.

Two of Northampton's largest millwork and custom woodshops report that, despite dreary economic indicators for much of the country, their businesses have weathered the past two years and picked up steam over the past 10 months. Wright Architectural Millwork and VCA Inc, both say modest hiring may even follow.

Mike Buell, co-owner of Wright Architectural Millwork on Industrial Drive in Northampton, said an uptick in business this year has him cautiously optimistic.

In the midst of a $1.8 million expansion in 2008, Wright was forced to lay off a dozen of its 33 employees. A backlog of scheduled jobs evaporated, forcing the measures, Buell said.

Wright makes custom wood interiors for commercial clients, such as legal and financial offices. "Jobs were being sold at cost or below cost just to keep those people we had here employed," Buell said.

Harvard University, Yale University and other institutions facing major losses in endowments called off planned projects or froze projects that were under way. "When the endowments took huge losses, there were many projects actually in the works, and they just stopped them cold," Buell said. "Some actually had foundations in the ground, and they just covered them up with plastic." Other jobs scheduled in the Boston, Connecticut and Westchester, N.Y. markets were also called off, he said.

But since the start of this year, many of those projects are back on, and Wright Millwork has rehired all of its employees plys two more, bringing the business to 35 total. Buell won't call it a trend, but he likes what he's seeing. "It comes back in little pockets," he said.

Wright and VCA share something in common. Both companies were in the midst of significant expansions in 2008 right before the stock market collapsed.

VCA co-owner Tony Clark recalled wryly in a recent interview that he and his firm had just moved into its Earle Street headquarters, a 20,000-square-foot industrial building with office and conference space. "We were watching the economy crash around us, thinking "This is a great time to move,'" Clark said.

To Clark's relief, work remained even, despite the suffering in other sectors. "Last year we stayed steady while other local business was hurting," Clark said. "A large job in Colorado carried us through the year."

VCA makes custom furniture, doors, cabinetry and other products for the high-end residential market in New York City and other wealthy areas across the country. "That in the past has given us a cushion," Clark said.

Despite feeding that market, even VCA went through a decline in business during the first half of the year, Clark said. But the compay avoided layoffs and Clark said that things have picked up since. He might hire another employee in the near future, which would bring the company to 16 full-time workers.

Indeed, hiring rates for graduating students at a cabinetry school in Easthampton have picked up in the last year, according to the school's owners.

New England School of Architectural Woodworking owners Margaret and Greg Larson said that from 2008 to 2009, the school saw a 10 percent jump in job placement rates for garduates of the school's nine-month program.

Graduates of that program (70 percent of which are career changers) have recently been hired by both VCA and Wright Architectural Millwork as well as The October Co. in Easthampton and several shops in Hampden County and New York state.

Margaret Larson said that she and her husband take that as a small sign that economic recovery could be happening.

"We are bullish about the future," she said.

 

April 9, 2009 Easthampton Summit
"Woodworkers Showcase Projects, Prospects"
The New England School of Architectural Woodworking holds its annual open house April 16 at 3 pm. Greg and Margaret Larson, who purchased the 14-year-old school last year, will be showcasing students' final projects, including a banquette for the offices of radio station WRSI and a new podium for the Norris School in Southampton, built to specifications for Principal William Collins.The school has not had a new podium since 1958, Greg Larson said.

The final projects showcase what students learn in the school's 37-week program, Larson said, and highlight a career path Larson said is viable, despite the economic downtown. [...] When the economy rebounds, woodworking employers will be looking for a new generation to fill their ranks. Larson said many smaller companies he has communicated with express worry about their againg workforce and facing a slew of coming retirements.

''We're trying to train highly paid people that can go in and help populate the industry again," he said.

The school is located on the first floor of One Cottage Street. For more information call 527-6103.

March 26, 2009 ISW Online Business Brief
"NESAW Director Focuses on Technology, Skill Standards and Partnerships"
The New England School of Architectural Woodworking (NESAW) is making changes to better prepare the school and its graduates for the challenges of cabinetmaking int he 21st century, according to Greg Larson, the school's new director. Larson is adding to and upgrading NESAW's woodworking equipment and facilities, improving training on topics such as panel fabrication, veneering and understand the characteristics of wood, and forging new industry relationships.

Last week the school launched a newly redesigned web site, at www.nesaw.com, to better acquaint potential students, prospective employers and the woodworking industry with the school and its programs. The site features photographs and descriptions of the school's program and course offering as well as students' projects and a shop tour.

As a member of the board of the Architectural Woodwork Institute (AWI) National Skills Standard Initiative, Larson is preparing the school to be one of the first to incorporate international skills standards. Current NESAW students are undergoing skills testing on woodworking machines and techniques to help develop and refine evaluation criteria.

"NESAW's emphasis is on 'readiness to work,' which means preparing students to meet hte needs of the industry immediately after graduation," said Larson. " To accomplish this, we are upgrading our equipment and curriculum in the career training program and developing more and better industry partnerships."

March, 2008 Woodshop News
" NESAW Open House Draws the Career-Minded"
The New England School of Architectural Woodworking in Easthampton, Mass. held its annual open house April 5, to recruit and educate new and prospective students. The school, which focuses on a wide range of woodworking skills such as cabinetmaking and furniture making, had roughly two dozen inquiring visitors.

The school was established in 1994 and was originally called the One Cottage Street School of Fine Woodworking. When the original founder retired, director Faith Harrison and her business partner Steve Squire, co-owner, began focusing on teaching architectural woodworking and cabinetmaking, and helping people find work. The emphasis of the school is on job training and placement assistance.

“What we’re teaching is custom woodworking, we’re not teaching production woodworking,” said Harrison. “In the expensive houses that are being built, you can have boxes that are built elsewhere and put into your kitchen but a lot of people really want specialized custom fitted, custom designed cabinetry – you can’t outsource that.”

One of the open house guests was Jonathan Jordan of Longmeadow, Mass., a senior majoring in English at Boston University in Boston. Months before his commencement, he is already planning a career change. “I’ve always liked woodworking,” said Jordan, who took high school shop. “I’m looking for a break from the field I’m in. I like working with my hands.”

The career change group represents about a third of the student body at the school, explained Harrison. Other students include recent high school graduates seeking a career in woodworking, along with semi-retired individuals who want to make furniture at home.

The nine-month program runs from September through May, on a daily basis. Both morning and afternoon classes are offered. Each class has a maximum of 10 students; most of whom have had some introduction to woodworking. Each is awarded a certificate of completion upon finishing the course.

Amanda Bond, 18, of Agawam, Mass. visited the open house, even though she’s already enrolled and ready to start in September. She became interested in woodworking after taking it as an elective at her private high school, White Oak, Westfield, Mass. “I’m interested in furniture making, cabinetmaking – I want to own my own shop,” said Bond.

Yvan Houde, of Palmer, Mass., a current student, showed up at the open house to show his family his project, a file cabinet/bookcase, which was on display for visitors. “I’m six months from retirement and I want to build pieces on the side,” Houde said.

Though most open house visitors were from Massachusetts, students come from all over the country, and most find the school via the internet. The area is a plus for the school – in the immediate vicinity there are about 10 colleges, while the neighboring town of Northhampton, Mass., is home to many artisans and craftspeople, and galleries. The school’s staff helps students find lodging in the area.

Instructor Steve Squire tells his students that to be successful in this business, they have to be productive. Students hone their skills building cabinets for community agencies or residential projects. They draw plans and create a parts list. Squire also stresses organization and efficiency.
 “Every step you take has a value and every step you don’t has a negative value. For most people that do woodworking, that’s not what they want to hear. They want to hear that it’s going to be a beautiful Zen-like experience,” Squire said.

The good news for motivated students is there are jobs waiting for them. Harrison said employers call her frequently, as they’re having a difficult time finding trained, skilled people to work for them.
 “I get calls from employers all over the country saying if they could expand, they would, but they can’t because they don’t have the employees,” said Harrison.

March 25, 2007 The Republican
" School Mixes Art, Work to Teach Cabinetmaking"
Dean L. Brown came to learn cabinetmaking at New England Architectural Woodworking after 20 years of living in Brooklyn, N.Y., and working as an artist and photographer. Stephen Ogg, of Granby, came to the school to try something different after 10 years of doing technical field service work on postage meters and computer mailing systems. And Barry Kozaczka, a native of Springfield now living in Easthampton, came to hone his skills after working in the building trades for a number of years.

Faith Harrison, of Southampton, and Steve Squire, of Stafford Springs, Conn. [...] make it clear they are not teaching carpentry in their nine-month long program. It's cabinetmaking, not carpentry. "The easiest way to describe it is carpenters take what we make and put them into buildings. We're training people to make a living in woodworking, furniture making or cabinetmaking," Squire said.

Brown, who now lives in Amherst, said he has found what he is learning at the school challenging."I like it. It's very detailed and exacting and requires full concentration. I like working with wood," said Brown, who was making a bookcase for Forbes Library in Northampton.

Ogg said he didn't want to be a carpenter or to "stick-build" houses. Cabinetmaking is a "good mix of art and knowledge," he said. Kozaczka said he was reaching a certain level in his craftsmanship working in the building trades and wanted to go further. "There are a lot of carpenters out there. If you want to do something special, you need the competence and training to do that," he said.

Besides its nine-month-long career training program, the school also offers adult classes at night and a one-month summer intensive program. Graduates of its career program also receive job placement assistance and because of the demand for cabinetmakers, nearly everyone gets a job, Harrison said.

Because the school is always looking for real world projects for students to do, it has done many projects for nonprofits and government agencies. The circulation desk at the Emily Williston Library in Easthampton is just one of many examples. They are near the end of their list of projects to be done and are encouraging those who need some fine woodworking done to contact them.