Legendary furniture craftsman Jere Osgood dies
Jere Osgood in his shop

Jere Osgood in his shop in New Hampshire. He died October 10 after a long and influential career in furniture craftsmanship.

Jere Osgood, a much revered studio furniture artist and teacher, died October 10, 2023, at his home in Peterborough, New Hampshire, according to a report from The Furniture Society, of which he was a longtime member. He was 87.

Born in 1936 in Staten Island, New York, Osgood grew up in a family that included lots of people making things. David Savage, another furniture maker, wrote in an interview with Osgood, describing those early days, “Jere has many childhood memories of his uncles, his father and his grandfather all making things; upon visiting each others’ homes they would always go to look at what each other was doing in their little workshops, never as business – this was more of a reaction to the hardship of the times; If you needed a chair, or a cabinet, or a box, you would go down to the workshop and make yourself a chair, or a cabinet, or a box.”

Osgood studied architecture at the University of Illinois and then enrolled in the School of American Craftsmen at the Rochester Institute of Technology and studied furniture making with Tage Frid. After earning a BFA degree in 1960, he moved to Denmark to study Scandinavian furniture design.

On his return to the United States, Osgood set up shop in Connecticut, supporting himself making small wood products sold primarily through a store in New York. Slowly he began to develop a business making and selling original fine furniture.

Osgood achieved his first national recognition in the pages of Fine Woodworking magazine in the late 1970s with several articles exploring the craft of bent laminations. He taught at the Philadelphia College of Art, Rochester Institute of Technology, Boston University, and a number of smaller schools including the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Maine. 

Jere Osgood desk closed
This iconic desk by Jere Osgood took the roll-top desk concept, melding it with Scandinavian influences, and bent lamination artistry.

He eventually relocated to New Hampshire and became an icon among New Hampshire furniture makers. David Lamb of New Hampshire, a multiple-time winner in the prestigious Veneer Tech Craftsman’s Challenge competition, told The Furniture Society, “A giant has passed. His impact was profound, as we all know.”

Jere Osgood desk open
The desk’s compound curved top rotates to the back to expose the work surface and interior of the desk.

In a video interview with David Savage, Osgood spoke frankly about the business of custom woodworking, saying at one point, “The business of earning a living from it is rather vague, and you have to explain to people that will continue.” To see the full interview, watch the video below.

The Furniture Society awarded Osgood their Award of Distinction in 2002. He was awarded National Endowment for the Arts grants in 1980 and 1988. He was elected a Fellow of the American Craft Council in 1993. He won Best in Show in 1996 at the New Hampshire Furniture Masters Association.

Jere Osgood side table
This side-table shows how clean lines and curved work were essential to Jere Osgood’s designs.

His work is highlighted in many private collections as well as at the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, American Craft Museum, and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Osgood is survived by his two sons, Leif Osgood of Sherman, Connecticut, and Mark Osgood of Wilton, New Hampshire. He had five grandchildren from Mark; Ayla, Ari, Opal, Asa, and Olin of Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire. He is also survived by his son's spouses; Adria Reed Osgood of Wilton, New Hampshire, and Rick Melara of Sherman, Connecticut. He is predeceased by his former wife; Arlene Nilsson Osgood.

A private graveside service for family was to be held on October 27, 2023. A public celebration of Osgood's life and work is planned for spring of 2024.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to The Furniture Society's Educational Grants Scholarship program.

Arrangements were under the care of Jellison Funeral Home, Peterborough, New Hampshire.

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William Sampson

William Sampson is a lifelong woodworker, and he has been an advocate for small-scale entrepreneurs and lean manufacturing since the 1980s. He was the editor of Fine Woodworking magazine in the early 1990s and founded WoodshopBusiness magazine, which he eventually sold and merged with CabinetMaker magazine. He helped found the Cabinet Makers Association in 1998 and was its first executive director. Today, as editorial director of Woodworking Network and FDMC magazine he has more than 20 years experience covering the professional woodworking industry. His popular "In the Shop" tool reviews and videos appear monthly in FDMC.