Celebrating our craftsmen

Both Baker furniture and the Labor Day holiday trace their roots to the late 1800s.  Then as now, American labor was changing — with hand craftsmanship growing more rare, the demand for creativity more pervasive, and the implementation of technology more important.  At Baker our craftsmanship is at the heart of what we do, and the associates who work in our factories are the lifeblood.  On this Labor Day, we want to celebrate all of our associates — and introduce a few of them to you.

Sandra Benfield – Master Decorator

Sandra Benfield - Master Decorator - hand-painting

Sandra stands behind one of her current projects - the new Tortoiseshell Centre Table from the Stately Homes Collection

Sandra has been painting for thirty years, the last seven with Baker. Her work includes hand-painting and metal leafing, among a number of other inventive techniques. While she might very well have painted your accent table, she almost certainly helped our product designers refine their vision for it — a favorite part of her work.  Sandra explains that “Baker finishes are almost entirely freehand, with the emphasis on depth and detail, and no two are exactly the same.”

Red Tortoiseshell Centre Table - The Stately Homes Collection - No. 5356

Sandra hand painted this gorgeous table.

Not surprisingly, her favorite item is the superbly decorated George III Lacquer Cabinet from the Stately Homes Collection.

George III Oriental Lacquer Cabinet - The Stately Homes Collection - No. 5370

The George III Oriental Lacquer Cabinet - hand-painted, of course!

Sandra looks forward to a little swimming and barbecue over Labor Day.

JB Gesler – Master Carver

JB Gesler - Master Carver

JB shows us around his workshop, pointing out one of the first items he carved at Baker.

While JB studied as a sculptor, he worked in clay, wax, stone, and many other materials — but wood has been his medium over the last fifteen years.  His work includes carving the prototypes and creating the models of many of our pieces. Equal part thinker and artist, he sees his role as one of translating an idea into three dimensions.

JB Gesler with his grandfather's hand plane

Many master craftsment hand down their tools to the next generation. Here, JB shows us the hand plane given to him by his grandfather.

On artistic perspective, JB volunteers that “Hand carving allows cuts that are deeper and sharper than any machine, but the real advantage of handwork is that it just looks right to the eye.”

The Chippendale Display Cabinet - The Stately Homes Collection - No. 5396

The Chippendale Display Cabinet

That would apply to both his favorite item, the Chippendale Display Cabinet from Stately Homes, and the peerless hand-crafted Gold Toad he developed for The Selected Works of Tony Duquette.

Gold Toad - The Selected Works of Tony Duquette - No. TDQ500

JB carved the model for the cast of the beautiful Gold Toad

On Labor Day, JB plans a relaxing day without labor.

Priscilla Chafin – Repair Technician

Priscilla Chafin - Repair Technician

Yes, that is a box of rice in front of Priscilla! She shared with us the process of creating the textured Rice Finish featured on a few items in The Bill Sofield Collection.

After stops at a few other furniture makers, learning multiple roles at each, Priscilla has now spent nine years with Baker.  From tooling leather to applying metal leaf, creating fantasy finishes, and perfecting joinery, her versatility is rare even among our often multi-talented associates.  What makes that more interesting, however, is her ability to improvise — deluxing items with sometimes limited resources at dealer locations around the world.

Priscilla Chafin  Leather Tooling Wheels

Priscilla shows us the 19th-century leather tooling wheels purchased by Hollis Baker from Sotheby's in the 1910s - which she still uses today.

When asked what she enjoys about Baker, Priscilla shared, “Quality really matters here. And the thing about quality is that it becomes more and more evident in a piece as the years go by.” Sandra’s favorite Baker line is the Barbara Barry Collection.

She plans to spend Labor Day readying her daughter to start high school.

Gale Jones – CNC Laser Operator

Gale Jones - CNC Laser Operator - Parquetry Pedestal Table - No. 5048

Gale shows off the top of one of her favorite Baker pieces - the Parquetry Pedestal Table

It’s fitting that a 29-year Baker associate operates what might be the most interesting— and quality-enhancing — technology at Baker.  In fact, Gale’s work somehow appears on most of the company’s wood furniture.  Gale has mastered wood-cutting techniques with the CNC Laser, allowing her to create highly intricate patterns.

Gale Jones cutting wood veneers

Gale operates the laser to cut intricate patterns in veneers.

Reflecting on the complexity of the tool, Gale said  “It took more than two years to learn the subtleties of the equipment, but the result is better and more consistent than even the best hand-cutting of veneer.”  Not surprisingly, her favorite item is the iconic (and intricate) Parquetry Pedestal Table from Stately Homes.

Parquetry Pedestal Table - The Stately Homes Collection - No. 5048

The Parquetry Pedestal Table

On Labor Day, she’ll be celebrating the birthdays of both her father and a brother.

Of course, there are many more Baker associates who make our furniture the finest in the world.  We hope they all have a relaxing Labor Day Weekend — and we hope you do, too!

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6 Responses to Celebrating our craftsmen

  1. Great work! Your website is like a breath of fresh air….it just screams fun!

  2. Ari Z says:

    It’s always exciting to meet the “man behind the curtain” as it were! Great craftsmen and women should be celebrated all year round. They are the ones responsible for bringing beauty into our homes.

  3. lucia philipson says:

    It’s really neat to read about the folks behind the product! I just purchased my first piece of Baker furniture- a vintage credenza. I can’t wait to find out more about it. The quality is amazing and I know it will be the focal point in my family room.

    • Hi Lucia — We’re so glad you love your credenza. We always say that even one piece of Baker can really elevate a whole room! We welcome you to post a picture of your credenza on our Facebook wall: facebook.com/bakerfurniture.

  4. Cathy Creamer says:

    Some of my most beloved pieces of furniture are Baker pieces. I have admired the quality of your furniture for years. I also like that the pieces are made in the USA.

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