Tom Shields Artist in Residence at Century Furniture

UPDATE: Tom Shields is currently an Artist in Residence in the ARTS/INDUSTRY program at the Kohler Arts Center.

Tom Shields current Arts/Industry Kohler Arts Center Resident

The ARTS/INDUSTRY residency program is the gold standard of residency programs for artists. The Kohler Arts Center was generous and gracious to share information with me a year ago while I crafted Let’s Get Original residency program that was so successful. A HUGE thank you to Kristin Plucar of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Andrew Glasgow independent curator, dear friend and connector, and Chris Anderson, director American Craft Council for assisting and believing in me.

Previous Post edited with additions:   In November 2015 a project I had worked on for more than a year quietly launched at Century Furniture in Hickory, North Carolina. Never before had a furniture manufacturer  hosted an Artist In Residence in the factory. Finding the right fit between artist and company culture was very important.

Tom Shields, a respected and innovative wood sculpture artist living in western North Carolina, and Century Furniture, a family owned furniture company producing high-end case goods and upholstery lines who produces the majority of their lines in the USA were a perfect fit. I know them both well. As mutual trust and communication is important in any relationship, beginning a new venture together it is essential.


Shields sporting his safety glasses on the Century Furniture factory floor
Shields sporting safety glasses Century Furniture factory floor – photo by Fanjoy LaBrenz

Tom Shields is a talented wood artist with a passion for reusing discarded materials and reimagining them into a work of art. Shields holds a Masters Degree in Wood and has shown extensively in galleries and museums throughout the United States. Shields was a 2015 North Carolina Arts Fellow, a former Penland School of Crafts Resident Artist and has been working with wood for over 17 years.

Shields virtually had free reign of tools, machinery and finishing facilities, and a room full of wooden furniture parts to choose from. Better than being a kid in a candy factory! Did he say that, or did I? You get the idea.

Century's factory floor
Entering Century’s case goods factory floor


Century Furniture was a great match, as they continually invest in design, continually keep searching on what’s next so they always have beautiful new products for the market. Century Furniture has recently grown acquiring several companies and manufacturing facilities and is now under the Rock House Farm Family of Brands.


Tom Shields working on the factory floor during his artist in residence at Century Furniture
Shields creates a work of art from Century Furniture factory overstock inventory – photo by Fanjoy LaBrenz

Shields has a personality I would describe as kind, gentle, and cerebral with a good sense of humor that made him a perfect fit for Century Furniture. Century is family owned with  values of trust, respect, and fairness are important throughout the organization to all associates.

Tom Shields creates art from furniture
Shields gets a leg precisely right with a hand saw – photo by Fanjoy LaBrenz


Tom Shields artist in residence at Century Furniture
Shields creating a work of art from furniture during his Artist in Residency at Century Furniture – photo by Fanjoy LaBrenz
Shields Artist in Residency
Shields getting it perfectly smooth – photo by Fanjoy LaBrenz

Century Furniture sponsored an exhibit at the Hickory Museum of Art in Hickory, NC of the new photographic works by Sally Fanjoy and James Labrenz on the walls and Tom Shields furniture created during the 4 month residency at Century Furniture. The Hickory Museum of Art exhibit Palimpsest New Work by Fanjoy Labrenz with Sculpture by Tom Shields runs through November 13th, 2016.

Tom Shields at Century Furniture
Tom Shields on exhibit at Hickory Museum of Art


Ande with Tom Shields and Alex Shuford
Ande with Tom Shields and Alex Shuford

It started out with a grand vision of placing an artist in a residence program in a furniture factory. That grand vision has grown into new opportunities for more artists and more home goods manufacturers, stay tuned, I’ll post announcements as soon as a couple projects come together with a launch date for the residencies.

Let’s Get Original’s Artist In Residence program is one of Let’s Get Original’s projects described on the Vision pages, check it out!