We at North Bennet Street School are deeply saddened by the passing of Phil Lowe CF '74, a master furniture maker, entrepreneur, teacher, mentor, and dear friend to all. His legacy is second to none, and includes not only the fine work he produced over 50+ years, but also the generations of woodworkers who he guided in the craft.
Phil began his life in woodworking soon after graduating from Salem High School in 1968, while he was still in the military. He sought out training at NBSS, later graduating from our Cabinet & Furniture Making (CF) program in 1974. Phil was a CF instructor at NBSS from 1975-1985, with the latter five of those years as Department Head. During this time, Phil helped build the program's core curriculum and supported its transition to be fully accredited—critical work that expanded and raised the School's profile in the woodworking community.
Over these many years, Phil of course also passed along his experience, insights, and philosophy to would-be furniture makers (and instructors) from all walks of life, helping to foster and grow the field.
"The loss of Phil Lowe is immeasurable, but so are his influences and teachings. He truly is the definition of a mentor," shares Dan Faia CF '94, Department Head of the CF program. "Phil shared his life with us all both in and out of the shop. It was always a pleasure to just be in his company. Phil taught us through his actions, to take pride in craftsmanship, to share our knowledge with everyone who will listen, and to inspire the next generation of cabinetmakers to carry on the traditions of the craft with honor."
Phil operated his own successful furniture making and restoration business throughout his career, producing work for the private sector and museums throughout North America. He also shared his furniture at shows and in exhibitions throughout the country, often winning awards for their craftsmanship.
Passing along his knowledge to others was natural for Phil, and so he authored dozens FineWoodworking articles, served as a long-time contributing editor to the publication, and was featured in several Taunton Press videos as well. (Note: FineWoodworking assembled a lovely tribute to Phil here, with many from our NBSS community sharing their personal memories.)
Phil shared his life with us all both in and out of the shop. It was always a pleasure to just be in his company. Phil taught us through his actions, to take pride in craftsmanship, to share our knowledge with everyone who will listen, and to inspire the next generation of cabinetmakers to carry on the traditions of the craft with honor.
Dan Faia CF '94, Cabinet & Furniture Making Department Head
Even with all of his pursuits, Phil never moved far from instruction and mentorship. Soon after leaving his role at NBSS, in 1989 he launched and led the Furniture Institute of Massachusetts, which trained hundreds of students from across the country in the art of classical woodworking techniques. Phil was also a visiting instructor, seminar speaker, and demonstrator at various schools throughout the United States and Canada, including at his alma mater, NBSS.
In addition to numerous accolades and achievements from shows, institutions, and private individuals, Phil won the Cartouche Award in 2005 from the Society of American Period Furniture Makers, and was chosen in 2010 for the "Artisanship Award" bestowed by the Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America.
These awards reflect his generous contributions to the field and its community, while also cementing his legacy as a master furniture maker and artisan. For these reasons and more, Phil will be remembered by all.
Images above: Phil Lowe at NBSS in the 1980s, Phil as an NBSS student c. 1968, Phil and George Fullerton at NBSS c. 1980, and Phil with another student and George Fullerton c. 1973.