CIR: Memories and Furniture made by the Kuenstner Family
It’s said that a family who works together, plays together. There certainly was no shortage of hard work, dedication, love, and laughs from our most recent group of Customer In Residence students. This family is incredibly smart, accomplished in their various fields, and avid athletes. When submitting their bios three noted that they would be bringing their bikes to ride the 30 miles to and from Freeport to our workshop in Auburn, every day. Never mind the 10 miles they probably logged while walking around the shop to collect their wood and assemble their pieces. Sharing a week with a group of CIR students is special no matter what. But, when you get a group that is made up of an entire family, you know there are going to be some great laughs and a healthy dose of sibling rivalry. The Kuenstener family left us wanting for nothing.
Meet the Family
This is the first time for Debby and Paul Kuenstner in our program. Debby said that Paul had asked her if she wanted to join his sister on this program and she said: “Sure, I’m totally down with it.” She had no prior experience making furniture and admits that as a finance person she has never really “worked with her hands.” What drew her to coming to Moser for the week was spending time with her family, learning something new, and by the end of the week having a beautiful piece of furniture to show for it. Debbie’s husband Paul is an architect and works in project management. He is currently leading a non-profit organization of 1,500 preservation architects and engineers from around the world. His woodworking skills and knowledge came from his junior high shop class, and we can say, he’s still got it! They are working together as a team with master craftswoman, Brenda Swett to build two Minimus Tables and an Ellipse Bed.
Sue Kuenstner and Tom Coleman are returning this year for their second time. Both said they enjoyed it so much last year they couldn’t wait to come back and are excited to have their family with them to share the experience. Last year, Tom and Sue built a dining table and a square end table. They admittedly had fun and worked well together but say that last year’s CIR program presented a couple of challenges. 1. They both immediately wanted to return so they could experience the triumph of constructing something on their own and 2. Now that they have two beautiful pieces of furniture in the house some of their other furniture needs an upgrade. This year, Sue is building a customized half sideboard in cherry and Tom is building our Four Leg Writing Desk and a Newport Chair, both in cherry. They split their time in Chicago and Connecticut where Tom teaches economics at the University of Chicago and Sue is a retired Marine Biologist that spends much of her time cycling throughout the summer and skiing in the winter. Tom remarks, “Essentially, I was fired from the team after last year, but it’s great. This year, I will be making a Four Leg Writing Desk and Newport Chair.
Nancy Kuenstner is joining us for the first time this year. Coming for the week from NYC, she is building furniture for her two adult children. Her son, who lives in Colorado, will be receiving a Lolling Chair and Ottoman and for her daughter, who lives in a refurbished church in Brooklyn, a stunning Edo Platform Bed. Nancy is no stranger to creating beautiful things with her hands. As an avid craftsperson, she enjoys sewing, pottery making, cooking, and gardening. There were many reasons why she wanted to attend our program. She was excited to learn about the wide array of wood species, the process of selecting wood in the rough mill, and creating a stunning piece of furniture. She also was looking forward to learning how to properly care for her wood furniture in a humid climate. The impetus for joining CIR – her family.
The veteran of the group, Tom Welsh, marks his third time as a CIR participant this year. Working as a geologist for the last 35 years, he loves handcrafted furniture and bikes. This week allowed him to enjoy both. He joined two others on the 30-mile ride (one way) from Freeport to our Auburn shop. Last year, he joined us with his daughter Nancy, who has recently graduated law school and is working as a lawyer in Boston and also marked the first year he invited his sister and brother-in-law, Sue and Tom, to join him at Moser. This year, Tom had hoped that he could share the week with his son, who was unable to join as he had been accepted into an MFA program at the University of Houston. Tom comes with a wide range of woodworking and design skills. He enjoys working in his home shop where he has built a sleigh bed, writing desk, end tables and a number of other exquisite pieces. In his past CIR years, he has built a sideboard, dining table, and chairs.
From One Family to Another
For Paul and Debby, this week was a welcome reprieve from a challenging spring. Paul, welling up, shared that he and Debby had had a difficult spring. They had experienced several losses in the family and this week allowed them much needed time to focus on what was important; family. He also remarks, that “not only was it wonderful to have this time with my family, but to be able to share this week with an incredible family of craftspeople.”
Nancy had remarked how she has always admired the craftsmanship and those who can make things with their hands… but what stood out to her at Moser was, “the quality, professionalism, attention to detail, not only in the furniture but for how the team at Moser treats one another. What a remarkable group of people.” She shared her heartfelt thanks for her to everyone for their patience in teaching her, and mentoring her. She admits, with a smile, “I’ll never be as skilled as you are here, but I really admire what you do with wood, leather, and the ability to selflessly share this gift with others.”
At the signing ceremony, Tom W. shared with us that, “30 something years ago I met Ellen, and I joined her family in that enterprise. It’s been wonderful to bring her family members here and share this experience with the extended Moser family.”
Paying a special tribute to Dave and Ramsy, who coached him throughout the process, and allowed him to be nervous. He says, “ I think woodworking here is different than it is at home. Here, I feel like I am expected to be perfect, where the craftsmanship is so well executed, it’s tough to live up to. But, I thank you for allowing us to come here and do this.”
Sue is always early, well organized, and has an impeccable work ethic. It came as no surprise to our Dean of Students, Steve Wyman, that her piece was finished, oiled, and ready to go. Whereas some of her family members, he notes, were not. She humbly acknowledges that many of her family members had built more than one piece. She dearly wanted to thank the craftspeople for guiding her and for their tireless patience throughout the week with a special thank you to Jim, “her cabinet guru who helped fixed all her mistakes.” Jim admits, she didn’t have any. She also wanted to point out that there are many similar pieces in the group and she hopes that the Olympics take note of woodworking and introduce competitive cabinet making. For Sue, her greatest take away is, that a few of her family members may have been pretty skeptical about this week being fun, but in the end, “they really did have a wonderful time.”
Before the closing of the ceremony, our founder Tom Moser couldn’t help but call attention to the headboard on Nancy’s Edo Bed. He states, “This is about a nice a piece of wood as I’ve ever seen come through this shop. It’s one board-wide, cut in half, and came from about a 30″ tree, and once you cut the sapwood out you are left with a really superb piece of wood. It’s so well done; you can’t even notice the seam. One of the things about our work that makes it so special,” he says, “is that kind of attention to detail; a perfectly matched seam that you don’t even notice.” Tom closed by offering his deepest gratitude for everything the craftspeople have given him over the years.
The ceremony concluded with family and loved ones gathering around for the signing of their pieces. This is the moment when a weeks’ worth of work and the culminating project is proudly signed by the maker. What makes these pieces unique is they adorn not one, but three signatures; that of the student, the mentor, and Thomas Moser. A simple, yet powerful mark denoting memories for a lifetime.
If you are interested in learning more about our Customer In Residence program and would like to come with your family, workgroup, or wish to discover Moser for yourself, we would love to hear from you! Our one-of-a-kind program fills up quickly (especially in the summer months) and we invite everyone to consider this weeklong immersion program, no matter their skill level.