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If this whole “building world-class furniture” thing doesn’t work out for Phil Lowe, I think he could get a job as a museum docent.

Lowe, an amazing maker and owner of The Furniture Institute of Massachusetts, has worked on many pieces owned by the Peabody Essex Museum in neighboring Salem, Mass. As a special treat, Lowe took the entire class over to the museum on Thursday morning and showed us the furniture collection through his eyes.

As a result, I think several of the students became newly minted period furniture nerds.

It’s understandable. Lowe has a depth of knowledge that makes each piece in the collection special. He knows its history, all the people who worked on it and its construction details. And he can articulate why the piece is important.

His enthusiasm for a piece with French marquetry inspired students to get close enough to set off the museum’s alarms as they tried to discern the difference between work with a saw and a burin.

The Peabody Essex (or PEM) has an amazing collection of pieces from the world over. My favorite bits were seeing parts of the museum’s original collection that had been hoarded by East India Co. sea captains. But seeing American pieces – some of which I’d seen before – through the eyes of Phil Lowe made it worth the 600-mile drive.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 4 comments
  • davegutz

    Love that place. I live in the town just North of Beverly. Last month there was a turning exhibit with all sorts of amazing vases turned every which way. And sometimes they display a real Maloof rocker.

  • bearkatwood

    That must have been a fun day. Thanks for the blog post. To be a fly on the wall would have been great.

  • hmerkle

    or should that line have read;
    His enthusiasm for a piece with French marquetry inspired me(C. Schwarz) to get close enough to set off the museum’s alarms…???

    Ha Ha


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Mike Siemsen is a woodworking expert set to speak at the Woodworking in America 2015 event in Kansas City.