Local makers add their own flair to furniture and home goods
When the weather outside is frightful—and even when it isn’t—nothing adds warmth and depth to interior spaces like the warm shades of wood. Add to that the talents of local craftsmen who bring passion to their pieces, and you have furnishings that will make a home special and unique for a lifetime —and beyond. Three Knoxville woodworkers share what led them to their vocation and what inspires them as they continue to evolve in it.
Joshua Shorey | BAPO Design
For probably 15 years, Joshua Shorey has been working with hourglass shapes. When he’s not building custom wood and metal furnishings for his clients, he finds himself drawn to tall, slender hourglasses executed in a series of planes, as demonstrated by the candlesticks he has posted on his website, bapodesign.com.
Because of his yearning for perfection, he also began making the beeswax candles to go with them. “Once you learn how to go about making things across enough disciplines, you can make about anything.”
Initially a ceramic artist, the Massachusetts native has an undergrad degree in ceramics, an MFA in sculpture from the University of Tennessee, and he’s worked in residential construction, an iron foundry, the aerospace industry and teaching in China before starting BAPO Design three years ago. He works out of Able Trade, a maker co-op space in the Jackson Terminal in the Old City.
“My wife and I decided why don’t we figure out how to make our living making things,” he said. “It wasn’t much of a plan, but I knew I wanted to commit my career to using my hands and intellect to create beauty. It’s been our sole income since day one. We’ve been very fortunate.”
His wife, Sammy, works with him to make BAPO a success. “She makes sure everything’s working — logistics, the website, communication, the Etsy shop,” he said. “I’m the balloon and she’s the string.”
Jacob Burkhalter | Chaser and Burk
Jacob Burkhalter got his start building mid-century modern furniture because of his budget. “My wife wanted a shelf off of Etsy that I couldn’t afford at the time, so I borrowed some tools and spent a total of $9 and really enjoyed it. I caught the bug then,” he said. “I started collecting tools and researching everything I could learn about it and taught myself woodworking about seven years ago.”
The mid-century vibe is what appeals to him for his custom work. “I just always gravitated toward that. I like the clean lines and the simplicity of it all. I got started just as it was catching on, so I was well positioned for the next wave of popularity.” Examples of his work are on his website, www.chaserandburk.com.
The Burkhalters moved to Knoxville from Kansas City four years ago and love being near the mountains. “The outdoor culture is really cool. I’m 20 percent happier as a baseline just because it’s so pretty here.”
The more he works in wood, the more he realizes beauty matters. “The more I see my artistic side grow, the more obsessed I become with things that are beautiful: nature, food, crafts. It’s been really fun.”
Tim Travis Jr. | Dovetail Woodwork
Knoxville native Tim Travis Jr. grew up watching his dad work with wood and “fix pretty much anything. He was just one of those men who could do anything and knew a lot about everything,” he said. “I always looked up to him in how he could create amazing things.”
By his teens he was following in his dad’s footsteps and he began considering woodworking as a career. He eventually started his own remodeling business, Dovetail Remodeling, for about 10 years and, about a year ago, began creating gift items like storage cases, pens and bottle stoppers using burl wood with resin and stainless steel. He initially sold on Etsy; now he’s developing his own website as Dovetail Woodwork.
Travis is particularly fascinated with burl wood. “It has endless grain patterns that twist and turn, burl eyes, and wavy patterns; it’s just quite amazing. The burl is actually caused by a sort of wood virus that attacks the tree, causing these giant knots. So on the outside of the burl it looks unattractive and worthless, but open it up and you have some of the most beautiful looking wood grains you’ll ever see. I think there’s a metaphor there somewhere.
“It’s difficult to work with and very expensive, but the end result is always worth it. That’s what draws me to burl woods. Combine burl with wood dyes and colored resin and you have some truly unique pieces that are straight from this earth.”