In the eyes of Harris Clark, of Farm Tables Etc., form/function is a beautiful, mutable thing.
In 2008 Harris Clark and his future wife, Courtney, were living in Wilmington, North Carolina, but soon enough they found themselves relocating to Western North Carolina in order for Clark to start a career as a firefighter.
As Clark now recalls, of his unplanned second career’s genesis, “I quickly fell in love with not only the rolling pastoral landscapes of Haywood County, but with the beautiful old barns and historic structures that dotted the local farms. Each hand hewn building tells such an amazing story, oftentimes a century old and still functioning as intended. When these barns were built, there were no plans or companies producing them. Each one is a completely unique manifestation of its owner’s hard work and imagination, becoming even more unique with time as the sun and weather contribute to its texture, color, and character. Even more intriguing were the number of these barns that lay rotting on the ground, up for grabs for anyone who would haul them off. And when this antique wood is used to make furniture, even though the form and function of the lumber has been transformed, the piece seems to cling to this unique character—lending to whatever shape it now takes a soul and personality that do not exist when the same piece is built from traditional lumber.”
Clark didn’t have any formal furniture building experience, but he had done residential construction, so on a whim, he decided to repurpose some of the old barn wood he’d gathered (Clark: “I was allowed to pull as much lumber as I could get before the owner got around to burning it.”), initially building a dining room table and a china hutch that turned out beautifully. Upon seeing his handiwork, friends and family started asking him for pieces, and for the next few years he would work on tables, bookshelves, and hutches in between shifts at the fire department.
Fast-forward to April 2017: The Clarks decided to take the plunge and officially open Farm Tables Etc. custom furniture in Canton. Offerings range from the aforementioned barn wood tables to classic bed swings to joggling boards. (Don’t know what a joggling board is? Dating back to the early 1800s, it’s a long, flexible bench suspended between two rocking bases, and when several people sit on it and “joggle,” it creates a delightfully bouncy, side-to-side rocking motion. Try it with the kids.)
Harris is quick to emphasize Farm Table Etc.’s small-town brand of personalized service and care.
“There aren’t a lot of other companies engaged in similar commerce,” he says. “Custom furniture makers are few and far between. Of those out there, not many are dealing with antique lumber. Many of them build products for larger companies that ship out “rustic” furniture on a mass produced scale. [We are] a place where you can walk in with a magazine photo, or just an idea, and sit down for an hour while we hash out what it is you are really imagining, and have it built just for you. You can even bring us the wood from your grandfather’s fallen down tool shed, and we will build it from that.”
Clark continues his full-time firefighting duties, and Courtney is a teacher; they have a seven-year-old daughter as well, so needless to say, their days are busy. They just hired their first employee, and if all goes as planned, they hope to add an additional carpenter soon. They are also working with an expert local cabinet maker, Mike Layne, to help Farm Tables Etc. fill the backlog of orders in the woodshop.
Going forward, Clark says, “Our plans are to push ourselves to create the highest quality furniture possible and to maintain a sense that we are creating not only functional pieces, but art. We strive to give every piece the unique attention that we would give it if it were going in our own home, and to respect and showcase the history engrained in the lumber.”
For more info and to view galleries of Farm Table Etc.’s creations, visit: www.FarmTablesEtc.com.
The full article continues below. (Written by Fred Mills) Click to open in fullscreen…