Burlington furniture maker creates her own path - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Burlington furniture maker creates her own path


At this Burlington workshop, wood is transformed into functional art. And it's not only the furniture that's unique, but also the person making it.

Erin Hanley is going against the grain.  She's a woman in a predominately man's world. She is the only woman in the Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers.  "It's intimidating," Hanley said.

She creates custom pieces for her business Erin Hanley Fine Furniture. "Sometimes I'll get people saying, so does your husband help you?" she said.

But it's all Hanley. She creates one of a kind pieces that range from industrial to modern to something you could have seen in 16th century England. "It's different than anything else you can buy out there because it comes from the mind of one person. The craftsmanship is something you can really appreciate," she said.

Hanley credits her creative, crafty parents for exposing her to woodworking and the arts growing up. She apprenticed for a cabinet maker when she was 19 -- then a fine furniture maker.  But Hanley was young and wanted to explore her options, so she left wood.  She sewed clothing for a company, then even became a paralegal for a few years before farming for a decade.

"There's a similarity in furniture making. I'm making some tangible and I have a relationship with the people who are buying it," Hanley said.

She loved farming, but after starting a family decided it was too physically demanding and went back to her first love -- furniture making.  Hanley attended a traditional craft school in Boston. She was the only woman in her class. She does not like to draw attention to being a pioneer and instead prefers to let her pieces speak for themselves.

Reporter Gina Bullard: What is your favorite part about woodworking?

Erin Hanley: I think the tactile part, getting the plane humming and a beautiful shaving coming off is satisfying.

Hanley says she's a perfectionist -- paying attention to grain, color -- and getting the perfect fitting joint.  Her pieces average around $2,000. "It's a level of craftsmanship that we're talking about and attention to detail," she said.

A woodworker cutting her own path.

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