Interview With Forest Dickey

Geoff McKonly, of the Furniture Society Communications Team, spoke recently with outgoing Furniture Society President Forest Dickey about his work, his company (Varian Designs) and his involvement with The Furniture Society. The following is a transcript of their conversation.

GM: How long have you been a member of The Furniture Society?

FD: My involvement with The Furniture Society started a while ago. I was a student representative to the board about 10 years ago. I served a term in that capacity, 2006-2007, and then took some time off from board duties and was a participant in several committees, and then was asked to come on to the board about six years ago. I’m approaching the end of my second of two three-year terms.

GM: Where did you go to school when you were a student representative?

FD: I went to graduate school at San Diego State, under Wendy Maruyama. Before that, I did my undergraduate in art and art history at the University of Chicago.

My involvement and my appreciation for the furniture society has been twofold. It’s been inspiration. Seeing the breadth and the depth of talent of people in furniture across the country and across the world has just been incredibly rewarding. New things inspire me, new thoughts inspire me. People’s creativity and the way they think about things which is so radically different from mine it Is really inspiring to me. The fact that then people go out and make things and share those things is, to me, really incredible. I feel I’ve gotten a lot out of it in a selfish way just by being around these people and talking to them. And then the other side is just the quality friendships and the quality of the people. The richness of community has also just been fantastic and one of the greatest things about the group. I’ve always felt that while we don’t always agree on everything we have great times, we talk about things, we share things and being a part of that community has a very deep, deep feeling for me. I really appreciate it. The people are good people and that’s fantastic.

GM: And those connections and interactions are though, conferences…?

FD: Conferences, the work I do on the board, the people I talk to about The Furniture Society, the people I meet when I’m on Furniture Society business and do doing all kinds of work. Meeting you for example, I wouldn’t get that opportunity if it was just myself. I’d be in my own little silo and it pulls me out of that silo and introduces me to great people and then have great experiences. Those are the strengths of the furniture society and why I keep coming back, the people, the people are fantastic in those communities. I think that woodworkers and furniture makers have a tendency to be isolated, to isolate themselves, to see people come out of that isolation is one of the biggest advantages and one of the main things I talk to people about when I’m trying to promote the Furniture Society and explain to people why I think they should be members and why it’s important to me. Just the community and the grouping of shared experience and advantages and the things you get sharing those experiences are unique.

GM: What is the goal of your work with Varian Designs?

FD: My goal has always been to make a living making furniture. To run a successful business that supports me and my family. Obviously, it’s a difficult proposition. The connection to the Furniture Society is all these people that experience that have gone before me and are willing to talk to me about what they did. Mistakes they made, things they did right. Everyone has their own advice, thoughts and experiences and if you can listen to those people and learn from them it makes not only a work stronger, but it can help make your business stronger as well. Having that advantage of meeting people when I have a particular problem in my business and being able to say, hey what did you do, or have you ever had a situation like this. If you can’t help, do you know somebody who can. There’s a tremendous advantage there for your business. Because there’s so many people that have done it before. Having that immediate connection to them rather than having to cold call is extremely helpful.

A sample of Forest Dickey's work: