Meredith Nicole Creates Heirloom Quality Furniture
Meredith Nicole designs and makes heirloom quality furniture. She also owns and operates Oden Gallery, an online space showcasing modern handcrafted furniture and the artisans who create them.
Meredith agreed to talk to me about what she does, and I hope that it’s inspirational to you as you’re trying to turn your own passions into a career.
You handcraft modern heirloom quality furniture, and I have to say, your work is really cool. Is this something that you’ve always had a passion for?
I discovered my interest in furniture making when I was 20 while attending art school. I took a sculptor class and ended up making a table. After that I was hooked and all I thought about was mixing furniture and art. The work I produced then was more about just creating and I was far from producing anything that would be considered heirloom quality – in fact I don’t even think I understood what that meant! For readers who also may not know, heirloom quality simply means it is constructed in a way that it has the potential to last generations.
I first discovered the potency an heirloom can have when I was in my late 20′s and living in Europe. I met a family and they showed me a 100 year old wooden kitchen table. The family, after a traumatizing event during WWII, carved into the underbelly of the table their names and words of encouragement they relied on to help them through the event. It was impossible to not see the important role this emotionally charged heirloom played in their family story. I knew then I needed to switch directions and really hone my skills so I could offer work that had the potential to be an important part of someone’s family.
A lot of people would have kept woodworking as a hobby while they spent their days working in a ‘real job.’ How did you decide to turn your passion into a business?
I don’t think I had a choice! I have never been particularly fond of working for others. Frustrated by limitations I found myself over-stepping the employee / employer line with my ideas and suggestions of “what if we…” or ” how about we try…”. Of course I encounter limitations all the time in my own business, but when it’s your baby limitations seem to turn into opportunities so much faster!
One of the things I love about your business is that you’re not just selling furniture; you’re also using it as an outlet to promote environmental responsibility. How have you incorporated that conviction into your business?
I’m so happy you asked this question. I have an online space called Oden Gallery, and one of the Artisans I represent, Kylle Sebree said “I believe that we are to be stewards of this earth” and I completely agree. When one believes in something so strongly it is impossible for it to not show up in everything you do and as a result the message is delivered.
When a client comes to you with a vision for a piece of furniture, how do you go about extracting that vision and creating a piece of furniture they’ll love?
Well first we make sure we are a right fit. I feel one can hire any competent furniture maker to build a piece of furniture, but in order to build a vision there has to be synergy between the client and the maker. If it’s a fit then the client and I discuss the vision, look at images, textures and anything else they may have collected, or I simply listen to the clients stories and use that energy and excitement to create the vision. From here I do some drawings, maybe a vision board, collect wood samples and create a rough quote for the client to consider. The client and I discuss everything, I make any necessary changes, provide a formal quote, project timeline and once everything is accepted by the client I then start to build. All of these steps can be done in person or by phone and email.
Your story is a great example of the good things that can happen to people when they follow their passions. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about doing something they love, but is having a hard time justifying the risks?
For starters, their new favorite word needs to be possibility. One can’t be open to opportunity if they are paralyzed by fear. I feel if someone starts to shut down when considering their perceived risks then they need to first ask some questions about what security means to them and why following their passion inspires thoughts of lack? Second, many will have a long list of logical monetary concerns, but with some planning, an open mind and – I can’t stress this next one enough, research and question asking they can prepare and try to calm their mind. No one can possibly foresee all the risks or opportunities that will come with turning a dream into a viable business so I suggest to simply do what they need to do to feel safe and then open the door and enjoy the ride!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I have always been a creative person and I struggled when it came to implementing and following systems, strategic thinking and numbers. When I decided to make a business from my creativity I was forced to exercise more left brain thinking. This challenge has been one of my favorite and rewarding parts to my job and has had such a positive impact on my overall character.
What advice would you give to a college student who wanted to have a career similar to yours?
Interview people in the profession and ask how they got to where they are today and what the challenges and rewards have been. Investigate the many avenues that furniture making can offer and find what makes your heart sing. There are so many possibilities and niches in this profession, so I suggest when you find something you love, start exploring, set some goals and remember there is no definitive end there is only the journey.
What is a typical day at the office like for you?
Well lately, I have been focusing on my newest business which is the online gallery. This business has provided many new learning challenges and so the last 6 months my typical day is learning about my website, internet marketing, creating relationships with people interested in purchasing from the gallery or in commissioning an artisan, and creating a super awesome community of artisans!
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Two bits of wisdom come to mind “how you do one thing is how you do everything” and “you’re limited only by your imagination”.
Thank you so much for your time!