Learning vacations are trendy. Furniture maker Robert “Bob” Ortiz recently debuted “Chestertown Vacation Workshops,” his version of a hands-on getaway with a goal. Unlike most how-to-do-it holiday training, Bob eschews group classes, instead working with just one student at a time for the entire five- to six-day session. A student chooses a piece of furniture to create from Ortiz’s line, typically a coffee, side, or end table.
Ortiz takes the client through all the stages of crafting the piece, starting with a visit to a logger in Pennsylvania to learn how to select the wood.
At his Chestertown, MD workshop, Ortiz shows the client how to dress, sand, cut, and glue the pieces together. “My furniture is fun to make,” says Ortiz. “ It involves machinery and hand tools so there’s enough variety. When I do a workshop, my time is devoted to just that one person. I am selling the experience of making a piece.”
Gordon Benson (above), a retired physician who splits his time between Philadelphia and Church Hill, MD, on the Eastern Shore, built an entry table under Ortiz’s supervision.
“It was a unique opportunity to work with an expert woodworker in a one-on-one relationship. It was a real pleasure to complete the project,” says Benson.
Workshop participants also receive a copy of Ortiz’s book “Creating a Fine Art Entry Table (Schiffer Publishing). Ortiz says his workshops are not just for those with a background in woodworking. A current client is a woman jeweler who wasn’t allowed to take shop in high school, but always wanted to learn those skills.
I met Bob at the 2002 Philadelphia Furniture and Furnishings Show, the year he won Best New Artist in Wood award. A Washington Post reviewer said, “…the elegantly spare pieces in Robert Ortiz’s “Sofia” line are so lightly poised they seem to have just taken a breath.” Over the years, I have purchased several pieces from Bob, including a dining room table. It turned out so lovely that when my then college-age daughter, otherwise thoughtful, first saw the piece she said, “I want that when you’re dead.”
It’s possible that you could craft a piece that would elicit the same response from your family.
Chestertown, MD, is an historic Eastern Shore town located on the Chester River. You can enjoy a sunset cruise on the river or a sail on the Chesapeake Bay from nearby Rock Hall. Among the accommodations in Chestertown is the Brampton Inn, a former 1860 plantation house. Contact Bob Ortiz, Chestertown Vacation Workshops, Robert Ortiz Studios.