Woodworking Technology Grad Earns National Award
Pacey Berken's award-winning chair was inspired by his grandparents
When Pacey Berken chose his final project in the FVTC Woodworking Technology program, he was thinking of his grandparents. “My grandparents put me through the program, so I figured they should get a little return on their investment,” the 2022 graduate explains. “I wanted to design a chair that would provide them with good back support and be easy to get in and out of.” He ended up making four chairs total, as well as two matching side tables.
His project, made from an exotic hardwood called African Sapele, caught the attention of his instructors, Glenn Koerner and Mark Lorge. They encouraged him to enter it in the 2023 Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers (AWFS) Fresh Wood student furniture competition, which took place in Las Vegas in conjunction with the AWFS Fair in July.
Pacey was intrigued. “I looked into it and heard, ‘They pay for your hotel, they pay for your shipping, they pay for your flight.’ Pretty much a free trip to Vegas. I was like, ‘What’s the catch here?’ So I signed up.”
The competition was fierce. Pacey was one of 142 students from the United States and Canada to apply. Just 40 of those applicants were selected to go to Las Vegas, and Pacey was one of them.
His chair won second place in his category.
The AWFS is the largest trade association in the United States, representing companies that supply the home and commercial furnishings industry. The AWFS Fair Fresh Wood competition is widely recognized within the industry.
“It’s a tough competition,” explains Glenn. “The caliber of projects at this year’s competition was very impressive. Pacey did an exceptional job promoting FVTC and the Woodworking Technology program!”
The original idea for the chair began while Pacey was a senior at Appleton North High School in the spring of 2020. Because of COVID and the shift to virtual classes, he never got the chance to build the Adirondack chair that would have been his final project in shop class. So when it was time to choose his final project for the FVTC Woodworking Technology program, he immediately thought of a chair.
Pacey chose to study Woodworking Technology while he was taking general education classes at FVTC, originally intending to transfer to UW-Stout to become a tech ed teacher. He explains, “When I found out about the Woodworking Technology program here, I said, ‘Wow, I want to do that!’” and enrolled in the Oshkosh-based program.
It’s clear that he made the right decision.
“I can wholeheartedly say that I enjoyed the program one hundred percent. It is a fantastic learning experience. Mark and Glenn teach you not only how to do it, but the theory behind what you're doing. And once you learn that theory, it opens a lot of doors, and I enjoy that.”
Pacey currently works at Woodcraft in Appleton, with side gigs like private tutoring, a new venture in a tool-sharpening business, and interning with the Woodworking Technology program. “I couldn't say goodbye to that shop and to Mark and Glenn and everything that they do there. It is just a fantastic experience. I cannot say enough good things about the program,” he says.
To continue his internship, Pacey still takes classes at FVTC. “I take classes in topics I'm interested in. The broad spectrum of classes that FVTC offers is nice too. Plus, it’s super affordable and it really feels like the college cares about us.”