One of the most enjoyable aspects of attending the recent Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers Fair (AWFS) in Las Vegas was viewing many stunning finalist projects on display for the 2009 Fresh Wood Student Competition. Now in its third biennial year with AWFS, this competition highlights outstanding construction and design achievements by students in high school and post-secondary woodworking programs in North America.
Based on the extraordinary range and quality of furniture projects I saw in the Fresh Wood exhibit, the future of woodworking design sure looks bright, with talented young people ready to lead the way! It was also encouraging to see that woodworking continues to be an important educational and vocational pursuit in many of our schools.
This year, Fresh Wood received a total of 165 entries from across North America, contributed by students and their teachers from 49 different schools. Of that offering, a panel of judges, ranging from woodworkers and educators to retail and trade, winnowed the lot down to 50 finalists. The judges reviewed all entries based on design, innovation and quality of presentation, use of materials, methods and processes, the functionality and achievement of design intent and craftsmanship and quality. Definitely tall expectations here! AWFS attendees and exhibitors were also given the opportunity to vote for a People’s Choice Award.
Projects were divided into seven categories, which included case goods, chairs, tables, production/contract work, reproduction, open category and class project. It was refreshing to see the variety of designs and techniques within each of these categories, ranging from traditional to whimsical. Students seemed to leave no stones unturned, in terms of their willingness to explore advanced techniques and surface treatments. I saw exceptional examples of veneering and marquetry, carving and fretwork, lamination and joinery on display. What a visual treat it was for all Fair-goers, and traffic through the Fresh Wood exhibit was brisk each day of the Fair. Finalists were on hand in the exhibit from time to time to discuss their work.
Of course, not every participant could go home an award-winner, and final judging during AWFS reduced the competition to 27 awards. Within each category, students were competing for First and Second Place honors (and $1000 or $500 cash prizes) as well as Honorable Mention awards of $250. All finalists received Certificates of Merit. This year, Tyler Duperron, from Fletcher’s Meadow Secondary School in Brampton, Ontario, won the Best of Show Award—in addition to a First Place award—for his An Apple a Day. The award included a $1000 cash prize, a Rikon Mini Lathe and a wood sculpture designed by the late Sam Maloof. His school received a $2500 Larry Hilchie School Grant Award for Woodworking, plus a Rikon Table Saw and Drill Press. Timothy Keating from Cedar Ridge High School, Chapel Hill, N.C., took the $500 People’s Choice Award for his Wandering Roses table. CustomMade® sponsored the award.
This was the first time two high school students have won these prestigious honors.
Rikon also sponsored the new Bravo To Teachers Award, recognizing the efforts of woodworking teachers and their schools. A Rikon stationary tool was awarded to two instructors: Clint Johnson (Halifax County High School), of South Boston, VA, and Dick DeBoer (Western Michigan Christian High School), from Muskegon, MI.
Fresh Wood — a fine competition to experience first-hand, and another good reason to consider attending AWFS in 2011.