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Master works in the making.

Kindel's reproduction program could not exist without the artistry of the Grand Rapids craftsman.

Robert S. Fogarty, chairman of Kindel Furniture, Grand Rapids, Mich., believes that his company's 10-year-old reproduction program with Winterthur is very much in step with the 1990's marketplace. "Kindel's reproduction and period furniture represents a return to traditional values and renewed emphasis on things American," he said.

"This falls very nicely in line with the attitude and mood of consumers in the '90s. The average age of our consumer is 35. These new consumers are quite different from previous generations. They have no compunction at all to having nothing in their living room but one fine chest. When they can afford another fine piece, they get it. We see it in stores, when we visit clients, in the kind of orders our factory receives. We see the same customer over and over again.

"The '90s are about product," Fogarty continued, "more than any other decade since I've been in this business. The days of the suite are gone. Manufacturers who bring out multiple collections with 40 or 50 items are going against the reality of the marketplace. "

Recognizing the American craftsman

"Dad came here in 1978 and saw these great craftsmen building ordinary things," said Paula Fogarty, manager of reproduction programs. "He saw a wonderful opportunity to give them something great to make and decided to take a gamble. He put 90 percent of the company's net worth on the line to develop the Winterthur program. He has an intuitive marketing sense and could see far enough down the road to this consumer who wants quality."

In 1980, the 89-year-old Grand Rapids company was selected over 26 other companies in being awarded exclusive rights to reproduce the furniture collection of Henry Francis du Pont. These antiques from the Golden Age of American design are housed in the Winterthur Museum in Winterthur, Del., deemed one of the finest collections of American decorative arts. In 1982, after thousands of hours of meticulous copying and research, Kindel began to reproduce the best of these American masterpieces, using the techniques of the original craftsmen.

The first item selected for reproduction was the Nicholas Brown 1760 desk and bookcase, one of 10 produced by the Townsend and Goddard families of master cabinetworkers. Of the existing nine desks, only one is owned privately. It was purchased at auction three years ago for $12.1 million. "That shows the value we have begun to place on the pure artisanship of American craftsmen," Fogarty said.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the program, Kindel introduced its limited edition of the mid-18th century Van Pelt high-boy at the International Furniture Market in April. Only one cutting will be made. Two handcarvers will work exclusively on it beginning in September, said Jeremy Bitcheno, master carver and plant manager. A cutting of 25 is expected to take 18 months to finish, with retail value of each piece about $30,000.

Credibility is key word

"Kindel didn't look for a 'set' of furniture to reproduce for Winterthur," Fogarty said. "Our focus from day one was to reproduce their very best of kind with the greatest accuracy and the highest quality. These are objects with intrinsic value -- objects whose original would never be available to the public.

"We are giving the consumer an authentic reproduction of a certifiable American treasure. They don't have to take our word for it. That is absolutely the key to the program -- credibility," Fogarty added.

As a maker of reproduction furniture, Kindel adheres to the definition of "reproduction" as adopted by the American Association of Art Museum Directors in 1979: A reproduction is a line for line copy of the original using the same primary and secondary materials.

Kindel also is exclusive licensee for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and for the Irish Georgian Society. All three programs receive royalties from the company.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Vance Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Kindel Furniture is in its 10th year of an exclusive right to reproduce the furniture collection of Henry Francis du Pont
Author:Garet, Barbara
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:May 1, 1992
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