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The Creative Art of Hawkins Furniture

| September 1, 2017

A gorgeous pecan dinner table is featured near the entry of Hawkins Furniture.

A gorgeous pecan dinner table is featured near the entry of Hawkins Furniture.

Craftsman W.T. Hawkins “Listens” To Every Piece Of Wood To Create His Masterpieces

Text by Dana Sitton   |   Photography by Haven Photography and Design

Off the beaten path in downtown Rosenberg, visitors can spot the brightly colored awning that adorns the storefront of the revered Hawkins Furniture Com­pany. When customers enter the store, they are welcomed by the visionary W.T. Hawkins and his official store greeter, Tank, his loyal 12-year-old pug.

Hawkins is a longtime Rosenberg resident who began his career as an auto mechanic in a small local shop that he owned called W.T Hawkins Automotive. He began doing some side work in his spare time and in 1992, found himself meticulously painting chairs for his older brother, Robert, who owned a business in Houston. That act sent him on a journey to begin building furniture.

He began with a simple kitchen table that stirred a passion within him and created intrigue in the eyes of his brother and future customers. Robert, owner of Surroundings in Hou­ston, offered to buy the table and any subsequent ones that W.T. continued to make. The carpenter soon found himself selling tables, coffee tables and console tables to vendors in Austin, Dallas, and Rockport and also in   Cincinnati, Ohio.

Working with wood became a fascination for Hawkins. He found joy in honing his craft and decided to submerse himself in this artistry when he opened the Hawkins Furniture Company in 2002. Though he never had any type of apprenticeship with a mentor, he eagerly sought out the knowledge, desire, and skill to create masterpieces of mere timber.

For Hawkins, making furniture is like putting together a puzzle. He loves a challenge, and has an intense desire to engineer pieces to be functional and beautiful, while respecting and revealing the inner charm of the wood. The creativity necessary to design a piece and the strategy used to assemble it are a love affair of skill. Everything from the showroom itself to the pieces that are housed there, he has artfully and intricately designed.

He starts with something rough and weathered and uncovers beauty. There are no written plans or designs; all ideas reside in his mind. In fact, when customers have ordered work and asked for a sketch, he has been known to make a simple sketch on a napkin, with no dimensions, to compare his vision to their desires, but no formal plans are written. About 75 percent of his work resides in building custom pieces and depending on the nature of the piece, could take 90 days to construct.

Customers come from far and wide to seek out his art. Hawkins Furniture has a special niche in the industry and people seem to visit the store with curiosity and attraction. Word of mouth and the Internet have encouraged people to drive many miles, and some have even bought plane tickets from as far as Florida to view his work. They order pieces that will add a custom flair and personality to their homes, in order to help them live and tell their own personal stories.

His 3,000-square-foot showroom was a boarded-up shell when Hawkins first laid eyes on it, yet he saw the vast potential inside. Precise work and devotion are threaded beneath the beautiful wood flooring and vibrantly painted walls, adding character to the canvas that highlights his sought-after furniture.

Hawkins says simply, “The wood tells me what to build.” He believes the wood has a story to tell, and he listens to it in order to formulate its purpose. Whether pecan, pine, or walnut, the same process is used to mold the masterpiece. Pecan is a reliable favorite as the state tree, but he has also used barn wood from family farms, salvaged bowling alley lanes, and pieces selected from saw mills. If at all possible, he will purchase whole trees in order to keep the color and pattern together. Hawkins often times will find remnants left for ruin, rescues them, and breathes life back into them.

Building a table is still his favorite project. Wood for the table is chosen, a plan and design are revealed to him, followed by 40-plus hours of molding, building, sanding, and staining — a craft that is a true labor of love. After sanding, each piece undergoes a finishing process during which layers of Danish oil are applied until a desired color and effect is achieved. Then a water-based coating is administered to protect the newly constructed piece.

Two other gifted men, Enrique and Jamey, work alongside Hawkins to execute his creativity and make his imagination a reality. Says Hawkins, “They are both such a blessing.” They each came to him and have proved to be very loyal and talented in their own right.

Asked to reflect on how his career and craft unfolded, Hawkins re­sponded, “I’ve always had art in my soul.” He certainly creates soulful art that captures the heart and fascination of his visitors.

W.T. Hawkins displays a 60-inch-wide piece of pecan slab purchased from a saw mill in Georgetown, Texas.

W.T. Hawkins displays a 60-inch-wide piece of pecan slab purchased from a saw mill in Georgetown, Texas.

 

W.T. Hawkins' personal greeter and assistant, "Tank."

W.T. Hawkins’ personal greeter and assistant, “Tank.”

 

The store display features various wood mantles, highlighting, pecan, and black walnut.

The store display features various wood mantles, highlighting, pecan, and black walnut.


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