My husband took a class on Rustic Furniture Making at the Campbell school this week. He’s wanted to take it for some time. A year ago May, when we realized we were selling our school and would have time to pursue personal interests, he tried to sign up for last August’s class, but it was filled. The school only offers this course once a year and they only take seven students because of space constraints. Therefore, with my encouragement, he signed up one year in advance and paid full price to be sure he would get a space in the class. The long awaited class began last Sunday and ran until today, Friday.
I worried that he wouldn’t be able to go, even after his long wait, because life tends to thwart the best of plans. When his dad passed away on the Friday eve before the class, it was as if fate was waving Mark towards his new destiny. He needed the distraction, and deserved a chance to be immersed in something he loves, but he wouldn’t have gone if his dad was still sick. Despite what I feared would be an impossibility, it turned out Mark could go – and just when he really needed something to aid his emotional recovery. Perfect.
Today, I went to the closing ceremony to see all the incredible crafts people made this session at the school. This week they offered blacksmithing, chair caning, jewelry design, lathe made stools, a cold foods cooking class, banjo, glass bead making, embroidery and appliqué design, watercolors, writing, and carving. The showcase is always impressive and inspiring . I was shocked by how terrific everyone’s rustic chairs turned out, because I consider furniture making a hard subject, but honestly, I wasn’t surprised by my husband’s chairs. I expected his to stand out (and they did). Everyone in the class made one chair, finishing by the skin of their teeth at week’s end. Mark made two and had free time on the last day. Ha, that’s my boy. High achiever and artistic wonder. The teacher said he never had anyone finish two chairs in a week. Mark later confessed that he could have made three, or at least a matching footstool, but he didn’t want to appear greedy, use up the last of the materials, and no one in the class wanted to stay after hours to put in extra time the way he would have liked. Ha. You’re spots are showing, o’ leopard mine.
He made one big chair for himself and a slightly smaller, matching chair for me. (Makes me wonder if Goldilocks is planning to visit our cabin one day) He plans to put them in our bedroom by the window with a table that he claims he will make later. The chairs are made of tree saplings with the bark on, but he shaved away areas in the backrest and armrests to make them more comfortable. This also adds interesting texture and design to what is actually a “stick” chair. Mark’s chairs are somewhat more interesting than every else’s in the class because he added some double rungs and forked pieces.
When I commented on it, he shrugged and said, “I didn’t have much room for creativity, because the teacher discouraged us using twisted or curved wood. He thought it would be too hard for beginners. But, wait until you see what I can do now in my workshop. All I needed was the basics. My mind is now spinning with ideas.”
That is how Mark operates. The man gets a small bit of information and he runs wild with it. Amazing how his creative mind works. He has an artistic eye that is unparalleled. He sees things no one else sees when he looks at bits and pieces of whatever. Always fascinates me. I’ve learned to just trust his vision even if I can’t see it early on. It was hard to do when it was dance we were talking, but with wood and other things I do not feel I have any expertise in, I just sit back an enjoy the show. Our going in different directions (artistically) is actually very good for us in some ways.
It was very important to me that Mark finally took this furniture making class, because if he didn’t:
1.) We would have a huge, beautiful, rustic log home, but it would be empty because we’ve spent every cent we have on the structure and land. We got rid of all the Florida furniture that doesn’t fit this new lifestyle, so filling this new house is going to take some creative thinking.
2.) I would have to jump off a cliff if I heard him talk about how much he wishes he could make this stuff . . . if only . . . . . All right already, stop whining and take a class somewhere. Gee wiz. I bought you some books, can’t you just read them, fake it, and make us a bench or something?
3.) I began to think I would never own a single rustic thing, because each and every item I’ve seen in a store over the last year, makes me say, “Gee, wouldn’t this be nice in our house,” But I get a response of, “Yea, but we would never buy it, because I could just make it for you.” Considering I’ve been told this about beds, dining room tables, end tables and coffee tables, chairs, cabinets, desks, lamps, and even knick-knacks like toilet paper holders and coat hangers, I’ve begun to worry. I say, “Dear, you will have to make things 24/7 to put a dent in my needs list, and there are only so many hours in a day. Are you sure we can’t buy this toilet paper holder?” and he would scowl and say, “For twenty bucks? No way, I can make it for two.” And I think, But will you? Now, for the first time, I’m beginning to think he will.
4.) I think it is important that all people embrace the things they love, and I believe happiness lies in soulful work that makes you feel you are living the authentic “you.” I know my husband no longer belongs in tights. I think sawdust suits him better than sequins, and I can’t bare the fact that building a house, handling our complex finances and the lingering duties regarding the sale of our school is standing in the way of him doing what he wants with his life. I have my MFA. I want him to have his wood.
So, he made some chairs and he is all perky and happy now. Therefore, so am I.
Driving home from the school with Mark’s two chairs in the back of the truck, the funniest thing happened. We were talking about the class and how much Mark enjoyed it and how badly he wants to get into this for a living once the house is finished, when a man in a sports car speeding along besides us on the two-lane highway, started honking. We thought we might have a flat tire or something, so I rolled down my window.
The man yelled, “Hey, where did you get those great chairs in the back of your truck?”
I chuckled and said, “He made them,” pointing to Mark in the driver’s seat.
The man said, “Do you have a card? I want to buy some.”
Mark said, “Wish I did, but I’m out of cards right now. Sorry.” He gives me the “can you believe he thinks I’m a real furniture maker” look.
The man said, “Where do you live?”
I shout, “Mineral Bluff.”
Mind you, we are still sailing along at 45 miles an hour.
The man yells, “What’s your name?”
I yell, “Mark Hendry.”
The man then smiles and shouts, “I’ll remember that and call you. I love those chairs.”
And off he sails.
Mark and I look at each other and crack up. It was like a corny movie or some kind of candid camera set up. Too perfect a coincidence to believe it happened naturally.
I said, “You get your ass in that workshop and don’t come out until you make a dozen of these chairs!” (which sell for 600 bucks and up, mind you, and you get the materials in your backyard for free). I’m thinking, not only will he be able to make me furniture, but I can buy some furniture too– those things not made of wood, of course- once he is up and rolling as a furniture-making entrepreneur. They say money doesn’t grow on trees, but it just might roll in the wake of them.
This is cause for celebration. My house will not be a hollow shell after all, because I’m all for a girl locking her man up in a sweatshop to produce, especially if he thinks it’s his idea of fun.
Anyway, that potential customer in the sports car was like a sign from heaven that Mark is following the right path. Mark will no doubt do something wonderful in this world of wood. The house will be finished in eight weeks, and then his workshop will be built and outfitted with his bazillion tools and . . . let the games begin. Can’t wait to see where it all takes him. My mind is already spinning with the possibilities. I will write articles about the new wood artist in Georgia that will put him on the map. He has the talent. I have the tenacious marketing savvy and no shame.
Mark tells me that he loves making the chairs and wants to make dozens for one of the upcoming art festivals. He figures he can sell twenty or more in a weekend – we’ve seen people do that without trying. Then he tells me he intends to have me cane them all.
I was like, “Say what?”
Caning is the hard part! But I wasn’t going to bust his bubble on the very day he blew it. I figure, when the time comes, I’ll offer to help him – if and only if, we make it a chair caning mini-party. We can sit outside together and talk and make it a marital social event. I never see him anymore – he is buried under logs and a fog of sawdust. I figure forcing him to work with me always worked in the past. I’m no fool – after 19 years, a girl figures out just how to maneuver a difficult fellow.
I did take the chair caning class because I thought one day it would allow me to participate in this furniture making thing – but I was thinking about my dining room chairs, not outfitting cabins nation wide with Mark-chairs. Bet I end up sorry I opened that can of worms. Eesh.
Anyway, I am definately going to share pictures of the chairs even though pictures don’t do them justice and he still has to oil the seats to give it a rich sheen. But not now. I have to wait for Mark to down load them, because I have fiddled with thei camera for an hour now and I can’t figure it out. I’m technology challenged. But when you see them tomorrow you will see they are neat. Guess you have to like woodsy sorts of things. I sure do. They are substantial, solid, natural and lack pretense– qualities I like not only in furniture, but in people. And let me just say that I think he did some pretty good seats – in fact, they are so good I couldn’t possibly match their exquisiteness. In fact, I might ruin any chair he made if my sloppy caning dared interfere with their artistic genius . . . . it would ruin the artistic integrity of the seat . . . yep . . . I shouldn’t touch them . . .
Um . . . think that will fly?
I’ll post pictures later.