Happy Friday, friends! We hope you’re prepping for an amazing weekend. It was so fun to get to write about a local gallery in Kinston, NC for Domino this week. And even more fun to get to work with my good friend and talented photographer Lindsay Corrigan, who took the photos for this shoot! Hope you enjoy!
Burying copper in the ground might seem like an unusual first step for making one-of-a-kind furniture. And a screen-printing shop that specializes in collegiate apparel might not seem like the ideal location for an art gallery. But when Ben Harper and his wife Katherine moved to Kinston, NC with their son and daughter, “conventional” wasn’t necessarily what they were after.
Harper had built a successful screen-printing business but always dreamed of woodworking. “My life just didn’t allow the time for it,” Harper said. “Part of the move to Kinston was a chance for a reset for my career.”
|And reset Harper did, primarily by creating Venerable Bench, a furniture line that is completely handmade using the best types of wood Harper can find – which currently includes cypress cut in 1951 by Foster Williams lumber yard in Eagle Springs in Pinehurst.|
“You can’t cut cypress any longer in the state of North Carolina if it’s within 500 feet of water,” Harper said. And, since pretty much all cypress grows near water, “it’s truly a rare product.” Harper only lightly mills the cypress “so that the history of the wood sitting in that shed is still there.”
Pair that with American steel for a unique product sourced completely from North Carolina.
For his next project, Harper is working on recreating some of the traditional Chinese lacquer products with all N.C. ingredients. For the legs, Harper will be switching to copper after reading an article about a 1970s furniture maker who worked with the metal by burying it in the ground.
The artist fashioned the copper, buried it and “let the ground do what it wanted to do with the material.” When it emerged “you’d see all that earthy patina.”
These new pieces – which have to be buried for six months – will be on display at Harper’s Buy Local gallery, alongside work of some of the state’s other extremely talented artists. Alex Matisse, the great-grandson of the painter, represents the mountains of N.C. with his gorgeous pottery. John Silver of Manteo’s paintings of the water lifestyle represent the coast. And local Kinston potter Caroline Perry and painter Miriam Seymour are on display as well.
“It’s just simple,” Harper said. The gallery is sourced exactly as its name sounds. “When you walk in you’ll know that everything is locally sourced to the state.”
A new artisan, a new screen-printing business and a new gallery have added another level of vibrancy to Kinston’s downtown renovation. “It’s a great complement to all of the other amazing things going on in Kinston,” Harper said.
And the town has welcomed the Harpers and their thriving business with open arms. “It’s a community in a true sense,” Harper said. “People really do care.”
That small-town hospitality might be somewhat rare these days. But sometimes it is the unconventional things, as Harper can attest, that end up being the best.
Thanks for stopping by today! We hope you have an amazing weekend!