When Matt Williams traded life in suburban Cleveland, Ohio and the winter winds that howl across the ice that covers a great deal of Lake Erie’s shoreline in January and February, for the sun and warmth of southern California, he never dreamt the move would lead to Texas.
Nor did he ever believe his high school wood shop project would be more than a project to get a good grade. In fact when he finished that grandfather clock while other students “were goofing off,” he was very certain he’d never do that again. It was hard work.
Well, he found out, life does take some twists and turns and what one can be certain of as a teenager, isn’t always a certainty.
The benefactors of his travels from Cleveland to Pasadena, California, where he entered Ambassador College, ultimately would be the number of Texans who spend good money to help furnish their upscale homes with his hand-crafted furniture.
Fresh out of high school and once in California, Williams found a part time job in a cabinet shop where he quickly found himself doing exactly what he’d once promised he wouldn’t be doing ever again, building furniture. And what he found out next was internal.
“I found out,” he says with a smile, while standing in his shop, “that I enjoyed that better than school.”
But school was still a priority to Williams so when the California campus was closed and the students were all transferred to the sister campus of Ambassador College in East Texas, near Big Sandy, Williams made the move “kicking and screaming.”
He had images of Texas filled with John Wayne and other personalities he’d taken from movies and when he arrived, he says, he was very surprised to find “it was very green.”
“I had no idea there were pine trees,” in Texas, he laughed.
Before he left college he had found another part time job making custom furniture. “I just kept coming back to it,” he said. “I knew I didn’t want to be behind a desk.”
Working and learning led to his going into business for himself in 1995 and his first big break came when a “high end furniture gallery in Dallas took me on,” he says.
The Past Perfect Gallery was located in the Design Center and it had something that all aspiring artists need. It had clientele with discriminating tastes and the wallets to back that up. He also found that many of those clients were interior designers who lived, not in Dallas, but in East Texas, where they served the needs of the well-to-do in Tyler, Longview and smaller communities that populate the piney woods area of the state.
His work has become so popular and he works so hard to make his newly created pieces look old, that he is working constantly for clients as far away as San Antonio.
His muscular hands work to smooth out a piece of lumber as he talks. He is, he says, most fulfilled when the work of turning a piece of “lumber into something gorgeous” has been completed.
His favorite wood to use is walnut, though he does a great deal of work with alder and other woods such as cherry, maple and mahogany. “I’ll do what ever a client requests, even mesquite,” he said.
Williams works in an 1,100 square foot shop located behind his home. It is a world of sawdust and heat in the summer and sawdust and chill in the winter and each of his custom created projects are meant to combine, “the esthetics with the function” of the project, along with “the interesting woods” he seeks out.
He works hard to make new pieces of furniture “look like antiques with character” and that can mean seeking woods with flaws. “No plain Jane wood,” he says.
Williams is truly a gifted artist who has found a niche far from the concrete and asphalt of larger cities and a constant flow of clients beat a path to his doorway.
He can be found at his Renaissance Furniture website: Renaissancecustomfurniture.com. But he can mostly be found covered with a thin coat of dust, creating his next piece of imperfect art.