My evolution into furniture making began with graphic design and sign making. In 1988, I graduated from Parsons School of Design with a BFA in graphic design. As an artist and designer, I was trained to look to the past for inspiration.
I am primarily a self-taught woodworker. In 1990, I began woodworking by building and hand-lettering wooden signs for local businesses on Nantucket Island. I moved on to carpentry, and later began making furniture.
In 2009, I earned my Master Furniture Maker certificate from Hill Institute in Florence Massachusetts, where I learned traditional furniture making techniques such as hand-cutting mortise & tenon and dovetail joinery, veneering, and carving. I use historical research to inform my furniture designs and traditional techniques to develop my own methodologies of woodworking. In 2016, I became Director of the Master Furniture Program at Hill Institute and teach classes in furniture making and woodworking.
While completing my furniture studies, I worked at a family-owned home design center. As lead designer, I designed kitchens, baths and home offices, which honed my analytical and design skills. I have since executed many architectural woodworking projects and built-ins, and do design consultations for remodeling projects.
In May 2019, I earned a Master’s of Design and a Graduate Certificate in Public History from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I bring over 30 years’ practical experience as a designer and woodworker to my work as a researcher and historian of material culture, tools and technology, and historic woodworking trades. In August 2019, I was awarded a monthlong research fellowship at the Winterthur Library & Museum to continue my graduate research on the transition from handwork to machine-based woodworking in the nineteenth century.
I have worked with Historic Northampton, in Northampton, Massachusetts, and Historic Deerfield, in Deerfield, Massachusetts on cataloguing museum collections. My research was used as a reference for the historic interpretation of the Sarah Strong Chest, a Hadley-type chest in the permanent collection of Historic Northampton, for their current exhibition, Made On Main Street. In 2019, I was commissioned by Historic Northampton to create a scaled-down replica of the chest as a hands-on teaching tool, and created a series of videos demonstrating the process of making the reproduction and insights gained from the experience. I curated and designed the exhibition, Branches of Woodworking: Labor, Learning, & Livelihood 1760-1860 for Historic Deerfield, which is scheduled to open to the public in fall 2020.
I own and operate a one-woman workshop in Northampton, Massachusetts, where I design and handcraft heirloom quality furniture and historic reproductions.
My furniture tells the story of my process; like the decisions that I make while designing, and the marks that I leave with my chisels. Richness and beauty in my work is achieved by accentuating the depth of the natural grain of the wood.
I am inspired by tradition. My aesthetic is informed by classic forms and styles of the Federal Period and the Arts & Crafts movement. My education and interest in typography infuses my work. The decorative elements of many of my pieces are inspired by letterforms.
I start a piece by sketching ideas, working out my design and its proportions. My visualization starts taking shape when I fine tune the proportions, creating full size drawings by hand. I often work with cardboard and scrap wood to flesh out the idea in the third dimension.
When I go to buy wood, an exciting transition occurs, my work shifts from idea to form. I spend hours searching for the right wood for my piece. I look for dynamic wood grains and tones. I mark each piece with its designation in my plan. As I work the wood into its final form in my workshop, I fine tune my design decisions. My aesthetic choices don’t stop until the piece is finished.
I use sustainably harvested wood in all of my work. It is important to support responsible forestry to ensure that woodworking has a viable future. A world without fine woodworking would be a dull one indeed. I take great pride carrying on the tradition of fine craftsmanship, working with my hands to create pieces that I hope will inspire others.
Many of the names that I use for my work are names of people and places of significance in my life. Some of my work is named to give clues to a deeper meaning.
I sign each piece with my hand-carved maker’s mark, on furniture pieces I include the last two numbers of the year in which it was completed.
“ID A Personal Profile.” (PDF) Hampshire Life. October 1, 2010
“HOMEmade.” (PDF) Hampshire Life. October 7, 2011
“Window Shopping.” (PDF) Preview Massachusetts. May 2011
“This Twist is a Crafty Place to Shop.” (PDF) Pioneer Valley Life The Republican. May 7, 2011
“Woodworking Excellence, 2015 Excellence Awards.” (PDF) Popular Woodworking Magazine. November 2015
“Sharon Mehrman, winner of 2015 Woodworking Excellence Award.” (SoundCloud) WHMP Radio Interview on the Bill Newman Show, October 5, 2015