Andrew Pearce—a third generation craftsman living and working in Vermont—isn’t quite sure how he started making gifts for the White House.
“We know that somebody in the Biden Administration reached out and specifically requested our product,” he told me over the phone from his workshop, which now has the tools to engrave the official seal and signature of the President, First Lady, and Secretary of State onto any White House custom order.
If you’ve felt, seen, or heard about the quality of Andrew’s wooden bowls, cutting boards, and kitchen items, the White House approval shouldn’t come as a surprise. Andrew Pearce products—which are handcrafted by his team in Taftsville, Vermont—effortlessly marry wood’s natural beauty with thoughtful design.
I can personally speak to the quality of Andrew’s work. Before ever considering speaking with Andrew, I tested one of his cutting boards. And, to put it plainly, Andrew’s board is—by far—my favorite I’ve ever used.
While Andrew may not exactly know how his bowls ended up in Washington D.C., he’s certain of his own story. From working at his father’s glass shop to now owning and operating a woodworking business with 25 employees, Andrew articulately retraced the most pivotal steps of his journey during our phone call.
Roughly 15 years ago, while still working in the engineering department at his father’s glassware company, Simon Pearce, Andrew’s dad asked if he wanted to visit a soon-to-be-out-of-business wooden bowl manufacturer that had the technology to “cut a bowl out of a bowl out of a bowl.” Although mechanically minded (he built much of Simon Pearce’s custom equipment), Andrew couldn’t understand how the bowl-cutting technology worked. Intrigued, he agreed to the visit.
On the car ride home, Andrew had the idea for what his company is today. “If you use their system, but cut the blanks thicker, dried them really well, then put them on a lathe, you could hand turn them and add shape and a really beautiful hand-finished feeling to something,” he shared with his dad and the other engineer in the car. They were all convinced. At some point, they even discussed opening their own wooden bowl shop.
Then the next day, everybody forgot about it.
“I didn’t touch the idea for another five years, and then kind of got to a crossroads at my dad’s shop,” Andrew said. He then spent a few days constructing a list of different entrepreneurial ideas he’d had over the years. “I got to wooden bowls, which was probably like 11th on the list, and then I just stopped the list and knew—this is what I’m going to do.”
How His Bowls Create Cutting Boards
True to his original vision, the core of Andrew’s process mimics the bowl technology he observed 15 years ago. “I didn’t invent any of the technology, but I did create this new process of combining machine-made bowl blanks with hand-turned finished bowls,” he said.
The process begins with procuring specific types of high quality wood. “We partner with about two or three different suppliers that are pretty local to us, and we tell them exactly the grade, the diameter, and the length that we’re looking for, and then they put a load together for us,” he said.
Once delivered, the wood—which arrives as whole logs—is sawed into two- to three-foot wide chunks. Those chunks are then cored, a process that ultimately produces a Russian doll of blank, unfinished bowls. Afterwards, the blanks are dried in a kiln for 30 days and then hand-turned on a lathe. While on the lathe, the wooden bowls receive their distinct shape and hand-finished feel.
This process minimizes waste, too. “For example, the cutting board that you have on your counter, that is a byproduct of making bowls,” Andrew said, explaining that my board’s wood was essentially repurposed waste from the coring process. “We basically take every part of the wood and use it to its maximum. We even take our sawdust and wood chips and give it to a local dairy farmer and they use it for cattle bedding.”
Woodworking (obviously) requires trees to be cut down. The company goes through roughly 365 logs in a year. Mindful of their impact, the company plants a tree for every log they consume. “We plant anywhere from three to 400 to 500 trees a year,” he said.
Andrew’s passion for his home state and local environment runs through every aspect of his business. “It’s a really quiet, small little state” he said, “but most of the wood that we use comes from very close by, so we’re close to our raw material source, which helps cut down on the transportation side of things.”
The Beauty in Imperfection
Whether it’s bowls, boards, or rolling pins, when Andrew designs his products, he focuses on two things: How beautiful it looks when empty and how well it functions. “I don’t worry so much about how food will look in our product because that’s up to the creator or chef or whoever’s working with it,” he said.
When considering function, Andrew hones in on things that show up during everyday use. “If we’re designing a bowl, we come up with a ratio [for the size of the foot to the size of the rim] so that it’s not too tippy.”
As for beauty, Andrew’s system rewards human error. “All of our employees have a shape or size or style they’re shooting for, but don’t fault them if it’s not perfect because it’s not supposed to be.”
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