St. Johnsbury Academy's fine woodworking program, headed by master furniture builder Matthew Stark, Class of 1996, is branching out to a well-known art gallery in northern California. Woodworking students recently constructed, finished, packaged and shipped 40 fine-art-quality cutting boards to Gallery M, owned by Andreas Strieve, in Half Moon Bay, Calif.
The cutting boards will be sold there for $50 each, a price point reached by the students after taking into account product costs, shipping costs, and input from the gallery owner. Money from each sale will come back to the students and woodworking program. If the cutting boards sell well, a similar order for the gallery will be filled each semester.
Gallery M "features work by around 100 emerging and nationally recognized woodworkers. This premier wood furniture gallery, located in Half Moon Bay, Calif., close to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, shows museum-quality, hand-crafted studio furniture, custom wood furniture, wood art and wood accessories boasting unsurpassed details, wood selection, and quality," according to their website.
Stark is one of several successful professional artists and artisans currently teaching at the Academy. He began his fine woodworking career in California, designing and building high-end furniture there for 13 years for clients in Silicon Valley and throughout the state. He has continued his career while teaching at the Academy, selling fine furniture from his workshop through fulfilling custom orders and via his website.
In addition to sharing his knowledge of the art of fine woodworking with his students, Stark wants his students to understand the business side of his craft. To this end, he plans to find additional opportunities for students to sell their work. He wants students in his classes to understand the business of selling what they make, and to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. He also hopes they realize they can make a living producing fine wood products. Gallery M has sold one of their cutting boards each day since their arrival at the gallery. Both Stark and his students are thrilled at the success of their products so far.
Assistant Head for Academics, Jeff Burroughs, said, "Matt joins an amazing group of professional artists and artisans that are part of our faculty. His passion and professionalism has inspired so many students in such a short period of time and now our woodworking studio is full every block of the day. Matt's work with our students is an example of the power of Career and Technical Education programming and truly brings craftsmanship and business together to produce professional quality work and in this case gallery-quality art."
Headmaster Tom Lovett said, "I have often said that whenever an engaging teacher helps students produce professional quality products through an engaging curriculum, programs and schools and, most importantly, students prosper. Matt's high energy and expectations, combined with his teaching talent, have inspired his students to produce work that discerning customers find valuable across the country. I cannot think of a better measure of a program's success or a more meaningful outcome for his students."