The Art of Furniture

Charleston Forge has a long history of hand-building beautiful, high quality, steel, wood, and leather furniture. We have an extensive catalog of products and do a large amount of custom work and have built product for retailers such as Room & Board, Restoration Hardware, Crate & Barrel and Bloomingdales, Starbucks, just to name a few.

Texture and Sound, Metal Clanging Against Metal...

Tara Jackson - Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Reports are consistently saying that the quality and value of American made goods is on the increase, however, employment within these industries (ours included) is, as it has been in recent years, decreasing. The average number of manufacturing jobs, according to and article from NPR titled “The Past and Future of American Manufacturing,” has dropped from around 18 million to approximately 12 million in the last decade. While we have not been strangers to having to make the difficult choice of cutting our employee base due to economic downturns, we still believe in the decision making power of the worker.

There is nothing like coming in to the factory on a snowy morning here in the mountains, putting on my protective eyewear, grabbing my camera and heading out to the shop to see what’s in the works. There is a normal loop I take, first visiting the men working the hot, reddish orange forge, flames licking at the metal, softening it to a point where one can take a hammer to it to give it a texture unlike any other. I then wander around to where they weld the pieces together, men in their green aprons, covered in metal dust, large protective masks covering their faces while blue and orange sparks fly in every direction, lighting up the red plastic separators between each station.  Being trained as a photographer and fascinated with light as I am, I must remind myself not to stare directly at the center blue flame where the sparks originate. That light will burn the eye, even from far away.  I then head on over to where we have a few detail-oriented ladies who grind down any metal burrs or weld melts to create a smooth and beautiful look to our metal, again, sparks flying.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we turn on these massive machines and you see chairs, tables, bakers racks, mirror frames, and sometimes bed frames (along with any other item we have been commissioned to create) on a slow march, through a 5-stage washer, a dry off oven, a paint booth and finally a cure oven, preparing each to be delivered to a designer, a home or a store.  I can’t exactly tell you how, but this process always reminds me of the animated movie “Alice in Wonderland.” 

Sometimes, we have custom paint jobs, a bright teal, or an orange for a flash sale event. These items head over to Dana, who, like any artist has her area of paint samples and brushes, an area where all of the colors she uses are blotted on a canvas so that she can take stock of its quality. She then hand paints each item, giving it a texture and sheen that you just can’t get from a paint booth or an airbrush.

During this process, there’s metal dust everywhere, there is texture and sound, metal clanging against metal. There are people, very talented at their jobs, working and smiling because they love what they do, creating something useful and meaningful with their hands.  During lunch breaks, there are men and women joking and laughing over their brought-from-home lunches, strengthening friendships with the close-knit community of co-workers that they have created over the years.

I couldn’t imagine this process being nearly as intriguing if it were done by robotic arms, controlled by someone staring at a screen, pushing a button every half hour (which some reports are now stating that’s where the manufacturing world is headed…how factories have slowly replaced workers with machines in order to be able to compete with the Asian market.) While the furniture always leaves our warehouse clean and metal dust free, the process it takes to get to the beautiful sturdy piece that ends up in a customer’s living room would not be the same were it done in a shiny clean factory. It would not have the history and the energy that it does going through the process that it currently does here at Charleston Forge.

While I can’t foresee the future of where the employee scarce factory will take our world, I have to say that there is something about the process, and the people that makes our furniture something to LOVE that will last for years and years…. and years. 


Tara Jackson       


Peppers Restaurant in Boone, NC buys Charleston Forge Furniture

Jeff Greer - Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Peppers Restaurant and Bar is a local staple for many in the Boone, NC area, serving up delicious sandwiches, a fresh crisp salad bar and homemade cookin’. When outfitting the bar area, the owner, Jack Pepper wanted to use Charleston Forge furniture for its durable nature and the fact that all of our work is handmade in America.  Charleston Forge was commissioned to create a unified look among the bar stools, tables and chairs, while providing a comfortable seat for their patrons.






“Our stools aren’t just made for sitting pretty, they’re made to be used, and used, and used.” Art Barber


Cookie Cutter Repeats

Tara Jackson - Monday, January 09, 2012

Handmade. We tell our customer and our partners that we are “Handmade… American Made.” It’s our motto, it’s on our business cards, it’s on our website and we constantly refer to it through facebook and our blog. We use the terms as if they mean something, as if they were important…. an ideal to live by. But in a world full of “Made in China,” “send the work over seas so we can make more money here at home” and cookie cutter repeats, we wonder if our consumers truly understand what we mean.

Back in October, our CEO shared a story that he received in an email with a photo of a ship containing 15,000 tractor-trailer loads of product from Asia. The Journey took just 4 days and the ship was emptied so that the product could be sent straight to companies who get their product quickly and cheaply, just to increase the price for something that you will walk in to your neighbor's house next week finding the exact same item.  And while this seems to be the norm, the fact is that the cost to produce and ship product from China is on the rise, while much of the quality remains the same.

And for a dose of happy news, published in an article by Florida Today (www.Floridatoday.com), 2012 is a year where more people are looking for furniture specifically with the label “Made in the USA.” According to the article, “The demand for American-made products has created record prices for American antiques at auction houses.” And apparently, this trend is expected to influence many of the furniture manufacturers and all of the industry in one way or another (which is great to hear after so many companies followed the trend after 9/11 of sending much of their furniture manufacturing over seas. And all this during a time when total patriotism was shouted from the rooftops.)

So to us, “Handmade… American Made” is a phrase we couldn’t be more proud to use or to live by.  Our people put their hearts into their work, from concept and design, to spending time by the hot forge twisting a chair leg into a glorious swirl, to meticulously painting a side table in a bright peacock teal as per a custom request. When it’s custom made, you can bet your neighbors won’t have the same barstools to entertain by. Your boss won’t have the same bench in his office that your kids sit on to tie their shoes in the morning. And your four-poster specially designed bed for your newly remodeled master suite will be special to you, and you alone.

And not only will it be unique, but it will also last for years and years. It won’t be put together with brittle plastic clips that refuse to hold the weight of your favorite book collection, nor will your favorite bar stool shatter into pieces when an excited brother-in-law knocks it over while tripping over his feet trying to get to your home made dessert (which he swears is better than any “from the box” mix you can buy.)

Handmade still means something. American made still means something. Quality.

                                 

                       Tara Jackson                                 

We would love to hear back from our readers. Feel free to post a comment or feedback below.
 


A New Outdoor Bench

Art Barber - Friday, November 18, 2011

 

We thought you'd like to see some recent work we've been doing. We just baked on a powder coated finish for this outdoor bench — we hope you "Like" it! One of the great things about building all our product here in the US is we can develop new pieces and put them into production very quickly. It enables us to work with local furniture designers, architects and interior designers and respond to industry trends. The result is it helps us keep our product line fresh and diverse. We'll have more outdoor pieces coming for next spring! Handmade right here in the North Carolina mountains.

      Keep in touch, 

          


Something Old, Something New

Art Barber - Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The 6250 Warehouse End Table

If you take an old piece of lumber and clean it up a little, put it on a table base that you heated and hammered out of solid steel and somebody loves it and buys it, then you have a feeling of accomplishment and pride that very few have a chance to experience. It's what our artisans do every day and we love it. No wonder we have a passion for what we do.


Brooms & Magic in North Carolina

Jeff Greer - Friday, September 16, 2011
 

  (PLEASE NOTE: WE NO LONGER CARRY THESE BROOMS)

 We make a lot of handmade metal furniture here at Charleston Forge and we're proud of it. We’re inspired in part by the landscape here in the High Country of western North Carolina. Located in a high valley, surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, we can’t step outside the door or drive along the roads without being inspired by the textures of trees and mountain peaks older than we are. I can’t step outside without discovering beauty, people, and talents in this region. And I’ve lived here for 42 years. The High Country always, continually amazes me.

   Take Friendswood Brooms for example. They turned broom-making into an art. Or, as they say on their Facebook page, each broom becomes a “unique piece of functional art.” In some of their pieces, it looks like art pulled right from the pages of Harry Potter. They’re just magical.

   And they were made right here in North Carolina, in the young but history-filled United States of America.

   Ralph Gates, a former NASA engineer, founded Friendswood Brooms in 1972. Prior to that move, he had learned Appalachian-style broom-making from an old mountain craftsman. When he left his position at NASA and relocated his family to Asheville, N.C., he took up those lessons and turned them into a business. Why? It certainly wasn’t for the money. It was for something far more valuable: family. “My new life,” he declared in an old National Enquirer article, “is centered around human values rather than materialistic values.” Decades later, even after Ralph’s passing, those values seem to be woven into every broom Friendswood Brooms make.


Broom maker Marlow Gates, left, with his late father and founder of Friendswood Brooms, Ralph Gates.
   I had the privilege of meeting his son Marlow, a former architect, a few days ago. He leads the family business now, working at home in the remnants of an old general store dating back to the 1800s, making brooms with his wife and two sons, in a valley nestled between the mountains of western North Carolina. It’s an amazing experience visiting them and shopping for brooms; it’s almost as if you were a wizard getting ready for your first year at Hogwarts. But of course you may not be in Scotland or anywhere near the United Kingdom. They don’t have Marlow’s magic yet.

   But we will. I’m excited to announce that Friendswood Brooms is coming to Charleston Forge.  Watch our website as we get our online store populated with more details about purchasing one of their magical pieces from us. Don’t worry though.  The brooms will have the same price whether you buy it from us or Friendswood Brooms. They’ll have the same lifetime guarantee, they’ll be made to be used, and they’ll be custom if you wish.

   Either way, you have the chance to bring that little piece of North Carolina magic right to your home.

    As always, thanks for reading,
                      

Art Barber
Chairman/CEO

 

Friendswood Brooms











The Original Cascade Table

Jeff Greer - Monday, August 01, 2011

Vicki Krueger, right, of West Jefferson, NC is seen with me, Art Barber, company chairman, when Vicki came by our Boone, NC facility last week to pick up the Cascade Drink Table she won during the Facebook competition the we held earlier this year. Vicki received the very first of these tables that we built. The competition asked Facebook fans to suggest names for the new product and to get their friends to “Like” their idea.

Vicki, a kindergarten teacher at Two Rivers Community School in Boone, toured the company’s factory with her husband, Steve, and got to see the manufacturing process up-close from start to finish. During the tour Vicki got to meet Ernie Houser, one of the company’s team of long-serving employees and the artisan who built the prototype that she now owns.

“I am truly thankful for the opportunity to own such a beautiful piece and have the opportunity to win it through the Facebook contest,” said Vicki. “Knowing that my table is from right here in the United States makes it more special to me.”

The hammered steel base of the table is one of the signature looks of Charleston Forge furniture and is similar to the company’s Hudson collection. It is complemented by a unique cast-glass top. The Cascade was introduced at the High Point Furniture Market in April 2011 and has been added to the catalog following a very strong reception from buyers and designers there.

As always, thanks for your interest.



     Art Barber
     Co-Founder & CEO


Press from the Furniture Market

Philip Holman - Thursday, April 07, 2011
Charleston Forge Featured in Furniture Today.

Thank you Furniture Today for writing about the U.S. flag hanging in our High Point showroom. We're re-posting their article about us from their Furniture Market coverage this week. 

You can also read their article on how American-made furniture is a growing category in the furniture market in general on their website at: www.furnituretoday.com/article/537679-_Made_in_America_furniture_becoming_a_popular_category.php

Thanks, and we're glad to have you on board FT!





More from the High Point Furniture Market

Philip Holman - Tuesday, April 05, 2011
We thought we'd share some images from our showroom in High Point where we are in the thick of things enjoying this year's furniture market. We hope you like what you see.



Above: A portion of the front room at our High Point Showroom
Below: Just a few of the nearly 40 NEW products we introduced at market this week. 


             


Charleston Forge Furniture, and Commissioned Jewelry

Philip Holman - Monday, April 04, 2011
High Point Furniture Market - April 2011



              Company president, RIck Grant, right, helps a customer try on a necklace made exclusively for Charleston Forge
by Boone artist, Kim Miller, at the High Point Furniture Market. At left is the "Ellipse" necklace,
part of the line of jewelry commissioned by the company.


We're having a great furniture market. We sold three times as much the day before it opened as we did all last market.  Saturday (opening day) was good too!  The media and customers are loving our Made in America story. More news coming as the show goes on.


               

P.S. Click here to see Carolina Rustica's thoughts on Charleston Forge.




251 Industrial Park Drive, Boone NC 28607 USA

info@charlestonforge.com

p. 828.264.0100

f. 828.264.5901