Jeff Greer - Friday, September 16, 2011
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,
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.
Co-Founder & CEO
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!
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.
Philip Holman - Thursday, March 31, 2011
The USS Greiner, on which my father-in-law served during World War II.
To emphasize our determination to manufacture and preserve jobs in America, we are displaying the American flag that flew on the warship that my father-in-law served on during World War II in our High Point showroom.
It reminds us of the sacrifices made by so many Americans who give their lives to protect the privileges we enjoy today. It symbolizes how lucky we are to have the freedom to live, work and play in such a great country. It calls out to all who pass by that our furniture is MADE in AMERICA.
We're passionate about what we make and where we make it and it hurts to see so many jobs lost from this country. It's not easy being in business here, but then again, business is not easy anywhere!
To compete with the world in our industry, we know that we have to be innovative, fashion focused, passionate, efficient and constantly evolving. We're actually seeing an increase in orders and have expansion plans, so it's obvious to us that our market likes what we are doing.
We will be showing table tops that an artist makes for us by melting glass and pouring it into molds. We've expanded our Warehouse Collection which features our signature metal frames and tops made with wood reclaimed from shipping pallets. We've added floor to ceiling mirrors (with acid etched mirror) and small upholstered stools to this collection. We made some display trolleys with metal frames and used old pine boards that we got from a Dutch cheese factory as the tops. (Come early, there are only a few available). New transitional and contemporary glass top coffee tables and drink tables by designer John Kolkka are spectacular. We even commissioned a local artist friend of ours to make us a line of jewelry that combines the same elements and techniques that we use in furniture making. Charleston Forge and jewelry, it's a natural!
It's all simple yet sophisticated, casual but elegant, imperfect but perfect. If that flag could talk, we think it would say, "Well Done!"
Thanks for reading,
Co-Founder & CEO
A Selection of Our New Products for Spring 2011
Top Left: The Tangle Pub Table and Counterstool.
Top center: The Warehouse 72" Cocktail Table
Top right: The Cascade Table with cast glass top
Bottom left: The Cheeseboard Display Cart
Bottom right: The High Country Console
Philip Holman - Thursday, March 24, 2011
Behind the scenes again: One of our Blacksmiths forging a solid 1x2-inch, piece of steel for a custom base.
The table-top that will go on it is a beautiful cross-section of a 34-inch wide parota tree.
Philip Holman - Tuesday, March 22, 2011
We thought we'd share some more pictures from our North Carolina workshop. Top left, hand-forging tapered legs for a prototype table. Top right, powdercoating (painting) a steel chair frame. Bottom right, the welding of a custom console being finished up. Bottom left, a blacksmith's sketch and his tools sitting by his workspace. Just more evidence that at Charleston Forge, it's always American Made.
Philip Holman - Thursday, March 10, 2011
My grandfather, of German descent, was a very creative guy. He wasn't an artist, that I know of, but he was always conjuring up something that nobody else had thought of, or if they did they had never acted on the thought.
Back in his day, most homes that were fortunate enough to have some sort of central heating burned coal. The furnace was in the basement so one had to carry the coal in buckets from where the coal delivery truck dumped in the yard to the basement. Pop, as we called him, poked a hole in his basement wall and installed a motorized conveyor system that delivered the coal to a bin right beside his furnace. He never patented the system that he created but he should have.
Sometime back in the late 1940's he made an elaborate Christmas tree stand that would take me too long to explain, just know that he loved having people over to their house to have their picture made by the tree. Honey, my grandmother, held the camera and Pop would always tell his friends (soon to become his victims) to look at the tree and touch it so they didn't look so posed in the picture. The moment they touched the tree, he mashed a button and the tree would fall right into the friend's arms. Honey would always catch the terrified looks on their faces as they thought they had destroyed Pop and Honey's beautiful Christmas tree. We have hundreds and hundreds of pictures of their friends with the funniest looks on their faces. That tree stand still exists but I think the last time my Dad rigged it up in the house I grew up in was over forty years ago. Those of you who remember the TV Show called Candid Camera, they once contacted my Dad to see if they could film it but Dad turned them down. It was our secret to keep until now.
I'm no artist either but I think some of Pop's creative chromosomes worked their way into my life. The beautiful little table that we just gave away reinforces that in my mind. He was always thinking of things to do or make that not everyone else would even dream of. I'm in the furniture business and it's a fashion business so I'm always dreaming of shapes and components and techniques and colors and whatever I can do that not everybody else is doing.
The cast glass top on this little table has been laying around our shop for several years. I knew it was something special because I haven't seen this type of glass used as a table top anywhere in the industry. It's made by pouring molten glass into a mold, causing it to cure with gentle waves and wrinkles and air bubbles. It's not perfect, but it's perfect. It's a slow laborious process and we couldn't introduce it into the market because the source we got this piece from couldn't deliver the quantity we'd need. Finally, we found a glass artist who is able to provide the quantities we need, and like me and Pop, he is creative enough to figure out how to make it work, so here we go.
Congratulations Vicki, you just won something very special. Copies are sure to come, but you have an original. If you take care of it and this story, I'll bet that when the next generation rolls around, some kin of yours will have a very valuable piece of American made furniture from Charleston Forge. Thank you for wanting it so bad and appreciating it so much.
Philip Holman - Monday, March 07, 2011
We've found that people who visit Charleston Forge love it when we take them around our workshop and show them how our furniture is made. From forging the steel frame parts, to welding, to cleaning up, to painting the finished pieces -- it's a fascinating process. Visitors get to watch skilled artisans use very basic elements -- steel and fire -- to make great furniture.
So we are inviting you to come visit us here in the beautiful High Country and see for yourself what goes into making Charleston Forge furniture. Tours are Tuesdays between 9 a.m.and 3 p.m. and you must call ahead to make a reservation. Below left is an image of our powder coating system in operation, below right is one of our welders at work on a baker's rack. For more images from our workshop floor check out our Workshop page on the website. If you're interested in scheduling a tour give us a call at 828.264.0100. We look forward to seeing you.