Established in Maine in 1972 by Tom Moser, furniture brand Thos. Moser was set up with the goal of restoring the lost art of woodworking while establishing a community that would allow craftsmen to make a living doing the work they loved. Forty three years on, and the company’s mission remains the same. Today Thos. Moser employs over 70 craftsmen who continue to produce simple and elegant pieces of timber furniture that can be found in universities, libraries, and corporate institutions across the US.
In 2010, Adam Rogers joined the team as a Product Manager, becoming the Director of Design in 2014. We sat down to talk to him about his role within the company, its design values and his plans for its future.
In 2014 you joined the team at Thos. Moser as Director of Design. How do you implement your own ideas and aesthetic while respecting the workshop’s past?
I was attracted to Thos. Moser because of the traditions. After forty three years the company has a firmly established foundation, call it a brand, or a set of ideals. The commitment is to these ideals, more than it is to the holder of these ideals. That said, historically, the furniture has been designed primarily by Tom Moser and more recently by his son David Moser. Design at Thos. Moser could be described as a part of a continued dialog with the history of furniture, and it that way, the influences of designers and individual perspectives has not been limited, but infinite.
I think of the brand’s values as a kit of parts. Form or ‘style’ is informed by the individual perspective of a given designer. My design sensibility is an extension of my personal perspective, so the results of my working with the kit of parts looks different, but is consistent with the philosophy.
What are the biggest changes you have made since starting as Design Director at Thos Moser?
My challenge is not to make any changes. In fact my challenge is to avoid doing so. Evolution is our goal, not change. Embracing, honoring even, the 43 years of success of this company and the foundation and philosophy of Tom Moser is my intention.
You now employ over 70 craftsmen. What does the training process at Thos. Moser involve?
The craftsmen here are truly world class. Craftsmanship isn’t a skill, it is state of mind. When looking for new craftsmen it is this quality, this approach to making, that we look for. Once on board, regardless of skill, the craftsman is paired with an established master craftsman for a calendar year.
Each piece of Thos. Moser furniture is signed and dated by its maker. This mark of quality cannot be penned by a craftsman until their training is complete.
Are all of the hardwoods you use sourced in the US?
Absolutely. We use only sustainably harvested North American hardwoods. Our primary species are cherry and walnut. The cherry is sourced from the Allegheny Plateau in Pennsylvania and our walnut source is variable based on quality and consistency of material, but is currently coming from the river banks of Missouri.
How do you balance success and growth with quality and craftsmanship?
Quality is not something we balance in any equation and is what we are committed to, regardless of the scale of project or the volume of products. We are lucky to have such a committed workforce who are up for the challenge of the additional workload when it comes our way.
Who and where are your biggest customers?
Approximately 20% of our business is generated in the contract market. Among our clients are universities, libraries, and corporate institutions. We are proud that many of these relationships have lasted for years and have resulted in numerous projects in many instances. Most recently, we’ve been a part of some significant building projects such as the George W. Bush Presidential Library by Robert A.M. Stern, the Hunt Library at NCSU by Snohetta, and have recently finished production on custom free-standing auditorium seating for Grace Farms by SANAA.
Classic Japanese joinery, the Arts and Crafts movement, American Shaker and the Bauhaus are all listed as inspirations behind the Thos. Moser aesthetic. Has the company’s location in Maine influenced the design of the furniture or the techniques, materials or processes used?
Maine, and New England in general has a rich history in furniture making and in craft. The hard working spirit of the people of Maine and the region has indeed influenced the work. When designing, one of the goals is to illustrate the making process, whether through exposing the joinery or through other mechanisms, but always in an attempt to convey the fact that the object was in fact made, by hand, by an individual whose signature is beneath the piece. This is not only a source of pride for the maker, but also a testament of quality and of value.
What is the starting point for a new product?
Once it has been established what type of furniture or collection is being called out for; whether a dining chair, a living room collection or a contract project, I compose a basic brief that outlines the intention, sets goals. I typically do research that focuses on the context of the products to better understand the type of environment the objects will live in. That is my starting point. Saarinen put it best: “Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context – a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan”.
How do you see the company’s product portfolio developing?
We’ll continue to strive to evolve aesthetically, embrace advances in technology and the possibilities that affords us in defining in an ongoing way what craft is and can be; all while staying within the brands established ideals.