Berwick furniture maker wins national award

May 24—A Maine furniture maker and artist has won a national award for craftspeople that comes with $100,000 in unrestricted prize money.

The Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation announced Wednesday that Aspen Golann is one of five recipients of this year's Awards in Craft program. Golann lives in Berwick and founded The Chairmaker's Toolbox, a nonprofit that provides free educational opportunities and mentorships to historically excluded chair- and tool-makers.

"Reflecting a commitment to inclusive education, she has helped create new pathways for marginalized makers to engage with traditional craft practices," the foundation said with the award announcement.

Golann, 36, said the award is "stunning." She is trained in woodworking techniques from the 17th to 19th centuries, and makes a range of traditional and contemporary furniture and sculpture. She was working as a high school teacher when she was inspired by a visit to the North Bennet Street School in Boston, a vocational school for traditional trades and fine craftsmanship. She completed her own training there in 2019.

"Furniture, I love how complicated it is," she said. "I love how long it takes to make. I love how it's the type of art that gets woven into a household and to a place."

In 2020, Golann founded The Chairmaker's Toolbox. The organization provides full scholarship classes for people who have historically been excluded from the field, supports underrepresented woodworkers and metalworkers who are making tools for chairmaking, and collects and gives away tools from people who are retiring from the craft.

"Part of my goal was creating opportunities for people to try it out in the first place, creating an opportunity for those people to meet each other, to network, to be represented visibly in the field and to slowly create the kind of visible and tangible community that people who are outsiders in the field need in order to envision themselves as part of the community," she said.

She hasn't decided yet what to do with the award, but hopes the money will accelerate the goals at The Chairmaker's Toolbox.

The Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation is based in San Francisco, and this is the second year of the Awards in Craft. The program "provides groundbreaking support for practitioners who are challenging and reimagining our collective understanding of craft as a medium and practice," the foundation said. The award honors craftspeople and artists who are working individually and collectively to expand the field through collaboration, teaching and mentorship. It is administered by United States Artists, a national arts funding organization based in Chicago.

This year's five winners include artists who work across mediums. The other recipients are Adebunmi Gbadebo, Shane R. Hendren, Blain Snipstal and Leo Tecosky. For more information about their works and the awards, visit maxwell-hanrahan.org.