Laurence Pollen

Portland, Oregon, United States

Furniture Maker, Woodworker

I have been in the furniture-making business for 20 years and have pretty much done it all. I have worked for as small as a two-man operation, to as large as a 500-employee plant.

I've been everything from the new grunt on the shop floor, to an industrial engineer walking around with a clipboard (no pocket protector though!) trying to solve problems workers were having in making furniture. I have sat in on managerial meetings and gotten invaluable insights into corporate politics and operations. My factory floor experience has given me credibility in explaining to management, who may never have worked at an entry-level position, the perspective of lower level production workers.

Since 2004, I have been making furniture for Altura Furniture, a state-of-the-art workshop in Portland, Oregon, and the best furniture making job/setup I could imagine! At Altura we make furniture that is contemporary, yet classic; modern, yet timeless. We take a multifaceted approach to design developing visual design concepts balanced with functionality and producing our pieces with superior structural integrity.

Here’s a bit of what we can cover in our PivotPlanet session(s):
• How to have a vision of what you want in your facility and work towards that, incrementally changing along the way if necessary.
• How to organize teams of employees.
• How to design furniture-manufacturing processes.
• How to maintain a new process to insure it stays around.
• How to understand the importance of teamwork…you can’t be responsible for all aspects of the business yourself.


I had worked for three years in furniture and cabinet shops when I decided I wanted to get a college degree. In 1997, I earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering with a furniture manufacturing option from North Carolina State University. This unique program is sponsored by the furniture industry in North Carolina to produce industrial engineers who are familiar with the particulars of furniture manufacturing.

After graduation, I interned in Honduras for two months. I went on to work for two years with a large furniture company in Virginia and then some smaller scale shops in North Carolina before joining Altura Furniture.

In my current position at Altura, I make hand-made furniture with a focus on chairs. I also act as managing engineer creating systems to help the shop run better and more efficiently. I enjoy solving problems and explaining industrial engineering principles to fellow employees and the cost-saving, stress-reducing benefits of these principles. In my job, I also use my engineering truing and experience to design jigs used in production to streamline processes.