ROCKPORT, Maine — Peter Korn is the rare individual whose career was changed by a cradle. Many years ago, when he was helping to build houses on Nantucket, he set out to make a present for some friends who were expecting their first child, and he decided to construct a cradle. It took just three or four days to do the job, and when it was finished he felt such profound satisfaction that the course of his life was altered forever.
Korn switched from housebuilding to woodworking, and in 1993 he pursued a dream and founded the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport. Its mission: “To provide the best possible education for people who want to design and build functional, beautiful, and expressive work out of wood to the highest standard of craftsmanship.”
Starting and running such an institution was an unlikely step for someone who, when growing up, had never known anyone who worked with their hands.
“I came from a world where my father was a lawyer and my mother was a historian,“ he said. “The last thing they wanted their son to do was to go into manual labor.”
Korn’s belief that “design and craftsmanship are deeply meaningful expressions of the human spirit” has become embedded in the DNA of the center, and it is his profound hope that the philosophy will endure when he steps down after nearly three decades as the only executive director the school has ever had.
“I’m retiring December 31st,” he said, then elaborated as a smile spread across his face. “But I’ve cleverly hired myself to teach next year because I’m still doing the hiring.”
Over the years some 3,000 students from all over the world — beginners, intermediates, and experts — have come to Rockport to learn about woodworking and chair making and ornamental carving and more. They’ve also learned something about themselves, which is just as Korn, a highly skilled furniture maker in his own right, wants it.
In the years ahead he’ll keep teaching and working with wood, but he’s ready to leave the administration to someone else.
“It does matter to me that I’ve done something in my life that has been of value to other people,” he said. “That was the point and I do like that. But I’m still looking forward to what comes next.”