Fern | Handcrafted Furniture is a New York-based furniture company crafting heirloom-quality furniture and limited edition objects from American hardwoods and reclaimed antique timbers. The company strives to create contemporary, yet timeless designs using sustainable practices whenever possible. Fern was founded by Jason Roskey and Maggie Goudsmit in Brooklyn, NY, and is currently based in New York’s Hudson River Valley.
5 QUESTIONS WITH FERN
How did you start and how long have you been designing?
Having always been interested in building and wood furniture, I made the transition from visual artist to woodworker in 2009. As an artist, my work primarily was sculpture and collage, so I like to think that my woodworking designs are a natural extension of the mediums I’ve worked with in the past.
How would you describe your design style?
Strongly American. I’m sure many of the traditional influences of historical American woodworking are present in the work. I don’t really subscribe to any particular style. I have the same interest in delicate, light designs as I do in heftier work that let’s the nature of the material speak for itself. I’m more interested in there being a language between the pieces. There are plenty of designers out there making enormous mixed-media pieces and marketing them as sculpture. At the end of the day, all of this stuff is furniture; it’s not art no matter how they try to market it. I’m more interested in a table that has a quiet aspect to it and can sit comfortably in a room with other Fern pieces.
What’s the most challenging aspect of making?
Building a strong clientele base of collectors and patrons that appreciate the amount of work and time that goes into making an heirloom piece of furniture. I really try to attract a clientele base that buys a piece of furniture then comes back a few months later and is interested in something else. I’ve been lucky to have a few of those clients, and they’re the best to work with.
What designs / designers do you get inspired by?
I’m not necessarily inspired by particular designers, as much as individual pieces, which are usually practical pieces that don’t have too strong a presence, but enough to be noticed – like a Shaker Candlestand, a well turned bowl, or an Ash woven basket. Most of today’s American furniture makers owe a debt of gratitude to the woodworkers of the middle 20th century, but we have to go beyond the traditional approach to woodworking to figure out ways to use new technologies in conjunction with older techniques to create genuinely honest designs.
Describe your views on sustainability?
We attempt to source all of our timbers from sustainable mills, arborists and sawyers, but at the end of the day, the lumber I’m using is from “post-mature” trees. I use a lot of maple and walnut, which are trees that have relatively short lifespans – under 200 years – so the lumber I’m using by nature is from trees nearing the end of their lives. Being located in the Hudson Valley allows us access to lumber outside of the typical neighborhood hardwood supplier. Overall, I think the tag “sustainable” is relative to the lasting power of the design. A chair made from FSC-certified wood doesn’t mean much if it’s not properly joined, and of a form that cannot be appreciated for generations.