Professor Brian Collier, Brady Neeb ’22, and Kylee Hope ’24 discuss a new project to build a table on Wednesday March 30, 2022. Collier provides the students in this class with instruction on how to go about making furniture and making it creative.

By Andrew Galvin | Staff Writer | agalvin@mail.smcvt.edu

The smell of ambrosia wood fills the air as the hum of a table saw becomes ambient to the basement of Sloane. Fine Arts Professor Brian Collier and his students are unfazed by a light coating of saw dust on their clothing, as they focus intently on precisely building a piece of furniture that speaks to them. This is the Wood Furniture Design and Construction class in Sloane, which takes place on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. -12 p.m. 

Five years ago, this class was only offered to art and design majors as an independent study. Collier chuckled as he recalled the first wood furniture design class, which was a group of five women who deemed themselves the “Mothers of Woodwork.” After the first year, he knew this class would be successful. However, he wasn’t sure how many students he would be able to teach while staying safe in an environment like a woodshop. He decided that 10 students would be enough. 

“This is not a woodworking class, it is a wood furniture design class. They each do a design history presentation and we work through the issues workflow management or issues designing for a client,” Collier said.

These skills can be overlooked, but Collier said they are important in the design field. 

Brady Neeb ’22 measures a piece of wood for a new project on March 30, 2022.

Matt Simboski ‘24 is currently enrolled in the course, and said that Collier gives students the ability to express their creativity in the projects.

“We get a lot of freedom when it comes to what we are making. He gives us a general idea, but we can then take it in any direction we want,” he said. The most recent project that the class was working on was a wooden box, but “no one box served the same purpose.” 

Brandon Duggan ‘22 focused intensely as he wedged a hinge onto the top of his project– a jewelry box. In another room, Jack Hurley ‘24 sanded a chess board that he plans to place in his living room at home. 

The art program has taken a new shape in recent years, and Collier said this class was one of the first to start the change.  

“This class walked hand-in-hand with our shift from just studio art from now art design which we integrated three years ago. And this was part of the loop for incorporating art and design,” Collier said.

Collier’s earlier jobs in set construction and interior design led to his 10 year career in wood furniture making. This knowledge in the creative and design aspects of the field, give him an experienced point of view to help students. Collier said the goal of the class is for the students at the end of the course to harness independence in their design projects.

“[And] have the ability to fully manage design and build projects. From wood selection to time management,” Collier said.

The class puts students in situations that give them the opportunity to take their experience and apply it to other aspects of their lives. 

“It really made me appreciate taking my time. With this chess board I’ve spent 12-15 hours on, I take pride in it, I want it to be done the right way,” Hurley said.

“It can be frustrating making everything so precise but it always comes out better than expected,” Simboski said. That’s why they always say measure twice and only cut once.