Meet the all-girls woodworking club building stools, college funds and confidence

International Women's Day 2022: the young members of Lumber Club Marfa learn everything about making and selling three-legged stools, from how to use machinery, and ideas of form to dealing with orders, business models and customers

3 three-legged wooden stools
(Image credit: Larry Bamburg)

In honour of International Women’s Day 2022, we revisit our article on the Lumber Club Marfa, an initiative empowering young girls.

For the last five years, a creative revolution has been bubbling away in Marfa, Texas. Lumber Club Marfa, an all-girls woodworking (opens in new tab) club led by artist and dad Larry Bamburg, has been helping to educate and empower young girls about the art and skill of furniture making. Its members range between the ages of seven and 14 and the club has become known for its signature piece – a threaded, three-legged stool, which starts from $300. Each stool is endearingly idiosyncratic, sometimes varying in height and thickness, and occasionally exhibiting a misstep in its making (errors are earmarked by a stamp stating ‘Oops’). All of them are a triumph of will and spirit, embodying the learnings and endurance required by the handmade process. 

Lumber Club Marfa: the all-girl woodworking club

A young girl working on the round wooden seat of a stool at the Lumber Club Marfa

(Image credit: : Sarah M. Vasquez)

What started as a family activity between Bamburg and his two daughters has since expanded into a fully-fledged business that the members operate. From dealing with orders and assessing the quality of lumber to handling transactions with customers, as well as making the pieces themselves, the club immerses its young members in the full reality of running a business in a truly unfettered way. Profits from each sale go into the college fund accounts of each member at a starting rate determined by the MIT living wage calculator and the number of hours each person volunteered. 

5 wooden three-legged stools with hexagonal seats in black and yellow

(Image credit: Larry Bamburg)

‘The primary concern has always been to help kids discover their power and to build some resilience through a sustained activity with real consequences,’ explains Bamburg, who is a working sculptor himself. ‘Getting the kids to understand that the endeavour isn’t just one big playdate sets the stage for learning so many things. I’m trying to create a situation where what they do matters.’

Recent projects have included a set of stools for the flight control room for Nasa’s James Webb Space Telescope, and a new line of hexagonal stools in collaboration with Alpine Montessori, a local school in Marfa. 

Artist Larry Bamburg with a group of girls in the wooden workshop in Marfa

(Image credit: Sarah M. Vasquez)

A young girl working on a wood-cutting machine at the Lumber Club Marfa

(Image credit: Sarah M. Vasquez)

A young girl sanding the edges of a round wooden stool seat at the Lumber Club Marfa

(Image credit: Sarah M. Vasquez)

The parts to create a wooden stool, including a round seat and three legs

(Image credit: press)

INFORMATION

lumberclubmarfa.com (opens in new tab)

A version of this article appears in the January 2022 issue of Wallpaper* (W*273), on newsstands and available to subscribers (opens in new tab).

Pei-Ru Keh is the US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru has held various titles at Wallpaper* since she joined in 2007. She currently reports on design, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru has taken a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars and actively seeks out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.