Inspiring Young Minds: St. Timothy’s Students in the Workshop
Over the years, our work with St. Timothy’s School, an all-girls high school chartered in 1832 and located in Stevenson, Maryland, has led to a unique relationship. When the school embarks on a new building renovation, and we source the furniture, Randy Stevens, the Head of School, sends a group of students to our Auburn workshop for an immersive learning experience. This summer’s visit is the fourth one by St. Timothy’s students.
During their four-day stay in Maine, the 11 students worked side-by-side with our craftsmen to help build High Stools for the school’s new Gerry Sisters Five Arts and Student Center. Additionally, the girls also made their own Table Minimus to share with their families.
According to Warren Shaw, Thos. Moser product developer and master craftsmen, “This is about giving these students an experience, so they know what it means to create an object of permanence – something that is lasting and of quality. When they see the furniture on campus, a lot of the details and qualities are not overt. They are very subtle, but the integrity is there and for them to work with us, and to see them appreciate a pin tenon and the work that goes into creating a subtle detail like that has been fascinating to watch.”
Grace Biggs a Sophomore summed up her experience saying: “Thos. Moser furniture is a part of our daily lives on campus – we eat and learn at the tables – and this experience provided a lot more context and makes the furniture more meaningful to me. We have a lot of rules at school when it comes to taking care of the furniture, and we do complain about it sometimes, but when you come here and actually get to build a table and see that it’s our piece of art, the rules make sense. You get a new perspective and a real appreciation for the craftsmen here, and how they’re living their life and making other people happy, and that’s the legacy they are leaving.
The trip began at a local lumber yard where the girls were introduced to sustainable wood harvesting and the value of conservation in furniture making today.
“My favorite part of the experience was seeing how the wood was cut at the lumber mill – seeing the up-close version of sending the wood through the saw and the process of cutting it,” said senior, Mary Ann Salim. “I had always thought cutting down trees was a bad thing – bad for the environment. But our host explained, that for new growth to occur, it’s essential to remove trees because when they die they block the path for new growth. And, using the wood to make amazing furniture like this is something that helps that reusing process.”
Our founders Mary and Tom Moser joined the girls for lunch and Mary spoke on her passion for the business and her experience as a female business owner in the early 1970s, and her role in making Thos. Moser a successful and admired furniture brand. Her advice to the girls – have dreams and don’t be afraid if they’re big. Find what you’re passionate about because it gives you the drive that you need to accomplish your goals.
“Talking with Tom and Mary and learning how the business started – that it was a small family business in the beginning – the two of them and their sons – and then seeing what it has grown into today was a favorite part of the trip for me,” noted senior Saleema Ibrahim. “It’s a testament that small businesses can succeed and get somewhere. I think it’s cool because some day I see myself owning my own business. This experience let me see that it’s possible.”
On the final day of the visit, the girls participated in a design challenge where they were tasked with sketching a buildable piece of wooden furniture that could fit into the Thos. Moser portfolio. Each girl was assigned to a team and given 90 minutes to create a single team design. At the end, each team presented their final idea to a panel of craftsmen and engineers for critique. The winning team’s design was a mirrored vanity with coordinating accessories – named “Mary’s Collection” in honor of Mary Moser. CEO and President Aaron Moser says, “there may be something to this idea – I love that it honors my mother. It could inspire a whole new product for us.”
When reflecting on the program’s success, Head of School Randy Stevens said, “this trip always provides an opportunity for our two organizations to merge our shared values. Our mission at St. Timothy’s is to develop students with purpose and consequence, like how Thos. Moser crafts furniture with meaning. It’s a wonderful learning experience for them because there are so many misconceptions about things that are made today,” he continued. “During this trip, we explore societal changes – how made by hand was once valued, lost its cachet as mass-produced, and disposable items gained in popularity, but is now returning as highly valued and appreciated.”
Randy is confident that the trips have been inspirational for his students over the years. One participant from the first trip in 2013, decided to pursue design as her career. She was fascinated by the intersection of space and urban development – how space gets utilized as a design element. He shared, “this young woman, who recently graduated from Cornell University, had many conversations with founder Thomas Moser about functionality, and it planted a seed with her about form and function and those questions have continued to resurface for her.” A possible outcome of this year’s trip – one student told us she had been considering going into Occupational Therapy, but this experience has now inspired her to explore becoming a woodworker.
As their visit came to an end, it was fun to see the girls’ minds were still whirling with creativity. They loaded up their suitcases with bags of wood shavings and leather scraps, planning to transform those materials into a dress for their International Fashion Show later this fall. We can’t wait to see what they come up with.