There’s more than one way to look at this bad economy. In our case, the construction industry’s loss has been our gain. Our newest artisans here, Andy Muth and Josh Gettings, went looking for better ways to hone their craft when jobs in new construction started drying up last year, and thanks to Craigs List, they found their way to our Woodbridge shop last summer. Let’s meet them.
Andy graduated from George Mason University with a biology degree in 2005, but he had loved his shop and engineering classes in middle school and at Woodson High School in Fairfax, where he grew up. After a stint at the Nature Conservancy and a few years working in the remodeling industry, he says, “the hours [became] so light with the economy so bad, this was a steady job, and I’ve always been into building furniture.”
Working with wood had always been a hobby, he says, but “nothing like this. Nothing this high quality … That’s really why I’m here. I just love the craft.”
Another thing Andy loves is the fact that all the artisans here are able to use the shop machines for personal projects on their own time. They can buy their wood at cost and make whatever they want. “I made my girlfriend a jewelry box for Christmas. She loved it,” he says. “I want to do more personal projects in the future – that’s one of the great benefits.”
Josh moved down here from New Jersey in July, when his girlfriend got a great job with ExxonMobil. For him, it was an opportunity to move away from construction, which he started doing part time at age 14 and full time since he graduated from high school in 2000.
“I used to be a framer, and I wanted to get into the finishing aspect of carpentry,” he says. “This is a great place to do it, because they’re known for high-quality furniture.”
Before coming here, Josh had done “a little bit of trim work in framing buildings,” but like Andy, nothing like this. “I never worked with any of the machines,” he says. Yet the atmosphere in the shop is one where the seasoned artisans mentor and teach the junior ones.
Josh says he’s been impressed with how generous people are with their time and knowledge – even if they don’t work directly with him. “I can ask anybody outside the team and they’re more than willing to help,” he says. The craftsmen here work in teams of about five, where they all work together to build certain pieces of furniture. Josh’s team mainly builds dinner tables, chairs and desks.
Like Andy, Josh is using his newfound woodworking skills for personal endeavors. He’s currently building three Shinto stools for his home. The problem with that, of course, is that his girlfriend now wants to come to the showroom and make a list of all the other things she wants him to make. As far as problems go in this economy, however, we think that’s a good one to have.