The Myth of the Handmade Object

Brian Boggs
Friday, June 26, 2015 @ 11:30am - 12:15pm

In this talk I will leave the old argument of handmade vs machine made alone. But I think it is well worth our effort to reconsider what it is about the idea of handmade that we revere and attempt to preserve as our process for making evolves. I have my own musings on this topic I will share, but more importantly I would like to generate thought discussion on the topic.

Some questions to ponder:

  • Is there something about the spirit of a "handmade" thing that we can name and preserve even as we adopt automated or more mechanical production processes?
  • What is the most important aspect to our role as makers/designers; why are we doing this?
  • Where does the value we think we are generating come from? Our hands? Our imagination? Our cleverness?
  • What are we preserving by keeping alive hand craftsmanship?

Brian left formal education in 1981 just after a year of college. His plan to learn woodworking on his own, turned into what is now a quarter century of intensive study of chair design and small shop production, with a particular focus on the tools that make the work flow. This studious approach has led to inventions of new ways of working wood with precision not commonly found in studio furniture. This approach also led Brian to design some of the finest chairmaking tools available today. His award winning spokeshaves have been produced by Veritas tools and currently Lie-Nielsen. In 2006 Brian’s shaving horse design was taken up by LieNielsen Tools works and earned recognition as one of the top ten tools of that year by Popular woodworking Magazine. Brian has written extensively on his processes.

His work has been featured in Fine Woodworking. Woodwork, Home Furniture, and Popular Woodworking magazines as well as over a dozen woodworking books. This exposure has helped make Brian a well-recognized master of one of the more difficult arenas in woodworking. Brian was instrumental in founding the international non-profit organization Greenwood ( This effort began in 1993 with Scott Landis and Curtis Buchannan as an experiment to teach indigenous peoples who live in and around rainforests how to make a living working wood in support of sustainable forest management. Brian served on the board of Greenwood from 1996 to 2009 and is now an advisor and consultant for Greenwood.

Currently living and working in Asheville, NC, Brian is working with his wife Melanie Moeller Boggs as co-owners of Brian Boggs Chairmakers Inc.