Since Hollis Baker’s first cabinets and tables, Baker has represented a distinctly American story of handmade quality and craftsmanship – a story that continues to this day. We have always been proud to make furniture in America, working side-by-side with extraordinary artisans – not simply out of patriotism, but also because of what it means for the quality of our designs and our products.
At Baker we have established a rich tradition of master craftsmen, their trade passed down through the generations for over one hundred years. Together we produce authentic heirloom designs of incomparable quality, rich in a complexity and detail other makers simply can’t offer. These unique capabilities allow us to nurture collaborative relationships with the most respected designers from all over the globe, resulting in exquisite furniture that will stand the test of time, passed down from generation to generation.
On this 4th of July, we celebrate the talented artisans in our factories in North Carolina, whose work is revered the world over – and we offer a glimpse into the processes behind their meticulous craftsmanship.
When the new Thomas Pheasant Collection premiered at High Point Market in April 2012, the St. Honoré Chest elicited ecstatic responses from designers and industry media. Its door panels are decorated in stunning detail — a design that took many months to develop, and which took advantage of our proprietary Martinak process of decoration.
Early in the production process, Thomas Pheasant, who likes to call himself “Made in America” as well, visited with the Baker craftsmen to understand what they do best. Inspired by their unique skillset, he then challenged the product development team to create his dream of the St. Honoré Chest, resulting in a design that took full advantage of the advanced capabilities of our craftsmen.
The initial challenge went to Jim Snip, one of our master carvers, who was trained in carving many years ago by experts in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Working closely with Pheasant, Snip hand-carved the pattern for the doors of the St. Honoré Chest.
Once perfected, the design went to Tammy Surface, our expert in Gesso castings and prints. With Jim’s carving, Tammy created a cast and applied it to the chest with our proprietary method. She then inspected the Gesso print to ensure each detail was just how Mr. Pheasant wanted it, touching up the decoration by hand.
Next, the design went to Priscilla Chafin, who handles many of our specialty finishes and leather tooling. Priscilla applied a special glue to the door panel, and then sent the chest to Sandra Benfield, a master decorator and guilder, who applied the gold leaf finish by hand. The design then went back to Priscilla to apply a glaze to the gold leaf, which created an aged effect, and also accentuated the relief pattern of the decoration.
The steps you have seen above are just a glimpse of the intricate processes involved in creating the St. Honoré Chest. There are a number of artisans who contributed — and somehow the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts.
After working with our craftsmen, Mr. Pheasant said, “There are all these individuals [at Baker]… who are dedicated and proud of what they’re doing. We need to nurture our artisans and bring new generations of artisans through these factories. This is a way to invest in ourselves, to invest in America.”
Indeed, the Baker factories in North Carolina are occupied by some of the most gifted and dedicated furniture craftsmen in the world, including the many others who were involved in creating the St. Honoré Chest, as well as those who put their hearts (and hands) into the rest of the Baker line each day.
We are as proud of them as we are of the extraordinary pieces they create.
You can read more behind-the-scenes posts about our craftsmanship here.