Published on January 16th, 2014 | by Eileen Cowen3
Piano Repair Business Fundraiser for John Furniss
Inspiration can come from many sources. For Vancouver man John Furniss, inspiration comes from seeing the inner workings of a beautiful, wood-cased machine: the piano. Furniss has dedicated his life to restoring and calibrating the instrument to fine precision. It requires technical knowledge and artistic revelation, things at which Furniss excels, despite the fact that he is blind.
A failed suicide attempt at age sixteen left Furniss completely blind. Regardless of his disability, he has spent many years searching for his dream. He studied woodworking in Utah, but was unable to find employment. While in Salt Lake City, he heard about the Emil Fries School of Piano Technology for the Blind. He moved to Vancouver, enrolled in the academy, and graduated last year. Recently, an opportunity arose to buy an existing piano restoration shop at 2606 1/4 Evergreen Boulevard. The current owner, Rick Patten, has been Furniss’ mentor and friend and is ready to retire. Furniss, along with his partner Anni Becker, launched an Indiegogo crowd-sourcing fundraiser on January 5th to raise money to purchase the shop and its treasure trove of custom tools for the sight impaired. The fundraiser runs through February 19th.
When asked why he wants his own shop now, Furniss said, “Rick has mentored me and taught me what I know. He has developed tools for blind people that make it so easy and fun, it’s almost like cheating.” Everything in the shop is perfect and precise, and Furniss insists any piano technician would be quite comfortable working out of the Evergreen Boulevard location. However, the one-of-a-kind tools are what Furniss has his attention on. There is a custom built drill press for sight-impaired operators, as well as numerous hand tools that utilize alternate senses, such as touch, to control with precision. The 400 square foot space is jam packed with piano parts, winches, and walls full of piano restoration devices. Furniss insists that the opportunity to purchase Patton’s shop is a once in a lifetime chance. He mentioned, “It is so perfect because it is something, not to toot my own horn, that I’m pretty darn good at. It is a time-honored craft that fills a place in the community.” Having tools that sight-impaired people can use effectively is a dream come true for Furniss.
Furniss and Becker mentioned that they have looked into traditional fundraising options, such as personal and business loans, as well as vocational rehabilitation grants. These types of funding can take up to 18 months to secure, and feasibility studies take up the majority of that time. Since Furniss receives a disability stipend, he does not have to work to support himself. However, he has an impressive goal of being a small business owner, doing what he enjoys. He mentioned that if he raises his financial goal of $15,000, he will be able to work in an occupation he loves, while helping families keep their pianos part of their family’s estate. He said, “People love their pianos. When they sit down and play and when it sounds so beautiful and nice, that is like gold to me.” Furniss considers piano restoration as his way to give back to the community he loves.
Only five percent of piano tuners are blind, and an even smaller percentage of piano restorers are sight impaired. John Furniss is working against some incredible odds, but given his luck, he is confident that the fundraiser will be the start to his prosperous future. The Indiegogo fundraiser runs through February 19th, with a donor party to be held at Niche Wine and Art Bar at 1013 Main Street, Vancouver.
Campaign page: http://igg.me/at/johnfurniss
Photos by: Anni Becker