Woodworker Austin Heitzman brings a painter’s eye to the art of furniture. He discusses his designs and his growing business.
ABI: How did you become involved with crafting wood furniture?
AH: My journey to woodworking began with the material itself. With no initial thought towards becoming a woodworker, I challenged myself to understand and identify every domestic tree both inside and out.
It was through this investigation that I became aware of the boundless palette available in wood. Initially trained as a painter, the chromatic potential found in wood appealed to my inclination towards color. It didn’t take long for wood to become the focus of all my creative endeavors.
ABI: Tell us about the collections you have designed.
AH: Wood is inherently unique. My challenge is to create collections that flaunt this uniqueness while still being able to be consistently, and affordably, reproduced.
Sometimes I discover a board so stunning it forms the basis for a show-stopping one-of-a-kind piece. However, I also create collections based off of forms more readily available in lumber. For example in my line of jewelry boxes I use boards that contain a dynamically bowed natural edge as a decorative element for the box.
My most successful collection has been my wall mounted cantilever shelves. Each is similar in spirit and is activated by the interplay of its unique natural and geometric edges. The play of natural and geometric lines is also employed, in its most elemental incarnation, for my line of wooden vases; and continues to form the basis for new collections I am developing.
ABI: How do you feel about production work versus creating one-of-a-kind items?
AH: The debate over one-of-a-kind versus production work is often a divisive one among woodworkers. I personally see benefits in both and therefore split my creative work between one-of-a-kind and collections of semi-production pieces.
Time is by far the greatest expense in my work. By creating multiple, yet visually distinct, pieces that share common joinery and design I can offer them at a more accessible price, without compromising quality.
I have found that by diversifying my repertoire to include production pieces, to be sold alongside my one-of-a-kind work, I have been able to expand my customer base. To me the more homes that can enjoy beautifully crafted studio furniture, the better.
ABI: What are some new directions your work is taking?
AH: I continually attempt to expand the potential of my work through improving both my craft and my designs. Currently I am exploring the process of bent lamination to incorporate more fluid forms into my work.
I am also interested in utilizing new materials such as porcelain elements for a standing lamp. As my repertoire of collections increases I am also beginning to wholesale my work, with my first order from The Joinery in Portland, Oregon.
I look forward to expanding further into the wholesale market in the near future. I am always on the hunt for interesting new projects and markets. To this end I am presently working on a line of bonsai stands along with doing furniture and woodwork for restaurants and bars.