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Woodturning News: General News

REFLECTOR.COM: Furniture school turning passions to skills in Ayden (08/26/2017)

Monday, August 28, 2017   (0 Comments)
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A business that caters to people interested in learning the art of woodturning and furniture making recently found a new home in downtown Ayden.

The N.C. Furniture School on Second Street, which offers ranging instruction that ranges from single-day workshops to month-long intensive classes, is an outlet for artisan and owner Stuart Kent to share a passion he has kindled for nearly 30 years.

“I started woodworking when I was 15, and I’m 42 now, so it’s been a while,” Kent said.

Over the years Kent has worked in a number of furniture factories and smaller shops. He has produced numerous pieces of furniture for East Carolina University and wood bowls made from trees that formerly stood around the capitol in Raleigh. State government officials give the bowls as commemorative gifts.

Kent earned a master’s degree from East Carolina University, taught university-level courses and had the chance to travel to Costa Rica as a Fulbright Scholar. When he returned from Costa Rica in 2014, he decided to open the school in Winterville.

“People that I met wanted access to the type of classes I was teaching at the university and the college level, so I started out with private classes and then decided to do the school full-time. I was doing furniture on commission and this for a while, but the school is really the focus now,” Kent said.

Originally from west Texas, Kent came to study at East Carolina University and decided to stay. Although he first opened the school in Winterville, he had hoped for some time to find a spot in Ayden.

“My thesis adviser owned a building here, so I came down a lot over the years to help him renovate, and I always loved the historic buildings downtown,” Kent said. “I just walked around and found this one was available and I new I wanted to do it.”

In the new location, Kent hopes to continue catering to a wide range of people interested in learning the arts of woodturning and furniture making. To help with that, he offers everything from one-day classes focused on a specific woodturning technique to week- or month-long courses that teach advanced furniture making skills.

“The classes we offer here have a huge value to the people who come through, and it’s all kinds that we see,” Kent said. “Some are hobbyists who just want a creative outlet, some are professionals with high stress jobs who do it for stress relief, and some are entrepreneurs looking to take up a skill not so many people have anymore as the number of woodworking shops has dropped off.”

Although some craft schools offer woodturning or furniture classes, his is the only dedicated furniture school in the state, Kent said.

“There’s a lot of value in well-made crafted objects, and I’m happy to play a part in keeping that tradition alive,” Kent said.

While many of those who attend classes are older men, he has been excited to see more young people and women taking up the craft, Kent added.

“Millennials are really coming into craft as a whole, and it’s refreshing and exciting to see younger people taking this up,” Kent said. “A healthy portion of the people that take classes with me are women and younger people, so I’m really happy about that.”

For those who attended an open house at the new location on Aug. 18, the prospect of the new school in Ayden was welcomed.

“We’re very excited to have a new business here, especially one that offers unique training opportunities like this,” said Ayden Commissioner Mike Harris.

Ben Trimpi, an instructor at Pitt Community College, had nothing but praise for Kent’s work.

“He does really good work. Not that long ago, I helped him move a reception table he had built into the Belk Building at ECU. It was huge. It took 18 people to move it, and it was great to see something like that built by someone local going into ECU rather than your run-of-the-mill factory furniture,” Trimpi said. “He’s got drive, and if a place like this is going to make a difference, he’s the one to do it.”

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