For the last five years, a creative revolution has been bubbling away in Marfa, Texas. Lumber Club Marfa, an all-girls woodworking 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: how it works

A young girl working on the round wooden seat of a stool at the Lumber Club Marfa
Photography: 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
Photography: 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
Photography: Sarah M. Vasquez
A young girl working on a wood-cutting machine at the Lumber Club Marfa

Photography: Sarah M. Vasquez

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

Photography: Sarah M. Vasquez

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