Leigh McAlpin, owner of local furniture and interiors haven Dwelling, has big plans for 2014. Now settled in the store's relatively new location in the antiques district of King Street, McAlpin thought it a perfect time to debut the Local Makers Series, putting a deserving spotlight on Charleston's local furniture craftsmen. A Jan. 9 preview night will launch this periodical opportunity to meet the makers and learn more about their craft.
Dwelling is interested in the makers they're working with, how they source their materials, and their eco-friendly approach to production. Because some of the craftsmen are using reclaimed woods, McAlpin believes there's bound to be some captivating stories to be told that the general public would otherwise never be aware of. By creating the Local Makers Series, she hopes these interesting stories will be unveiled to their customers, straight from the maker's mouth. After all, where else would anyone have access to furniture makers who are typically squirreled away in the workshop whittling wood into useful pieces of art?
"While Charleston's local fashion, art, and food options are thriving here, and some of the small accessory makers and jewelers do very well here, there's really no support out there for the local craftsmen in terms of the furniture makers, and they are here," McAlpin explains. "And there is some real talent here, and it's untapped. We just feel like somebody needs to step forward to provide a voice, a space, to provide a go-to resource to help bring all of those together because all of those furniture makers — they are artists, they are craftsmen. They work independently of one another, and we really want to provide a resource to really help to bring them all to the consumer."
The first to take the spotlight is husband-and-wife team Joseph and Katie Thompson of Joseph Thompson Woodworks. Based in nearby Eutawville, S.C., they combine modern aesthetics with old-world woodworking techniques to create truly unique pieces. Katie also recently started Black Swamp, her own jewelry line that uses leftover woodshavings. The Thompsons plan to have a good mix of their creations available at both the launch as well as King Street's Second Sundays in January and February.
"We'll spill some furniture out onto the sidewalk," McAlpin says, "and we'll be out there to mix and mingle and let people stumble across their wares and let them ask about the story behind a bar stool and that kind of thing."
Expect locally crafted libations from High Wire Distillery to be poured at the launch party, and costumers can peruse the Thompsons selection of one-of-a-kind benches, chairs, tables, and stools at all three events. These heirloom-quality pieces are in line with Dwelling's motto that the antiques of tomorrow really can be purchased today. Apparently back in the day, there was a great presence of high-quality furniture makers here in the Holy City and their pieces are now heirlooms. Dwelling wants to help bring that artisanal pride back to Charleston.
"Charleston has a long history of supporting furniture makers and architects and builders," McAlpin explains. "In the 1800s, there were some very well-known and talented furniture makers based in Charleston. You can go to the Charleston Museum and see examples of these pieces by these makers; but there's been a skip, and I really want to pay a bit of homage to the history of furniture making in Charleston. We really had our name on the map for a long, long time, and we have a nice hub of talent here again. I really want people to recognize that talent. I want them to find success and take off, because they deserve to."
Joseph Thompson Woodworks will be in-store on Jan. 9 as well as during King Street's First Sundays on Jan. 12 and Feb. 8 Second Sundays.