From the beginning.....
I have spent a lifetime working with my hands, head and heart. Three decades in the
construction industry have taught me to work with my head and hands. Being creative is where the heart comes in. But when I produce tabby, all three converge in the ultimate self-
I grew up in rural South Carolina. Having severe ADD in middle school was a blessing in disguise. Teachers didn’t know what to do with kids like me back then, so they put me in a corner and called me a wallflower, and I would just draw for hours. I started sketching things to build. In 1995 my mother and step-father moved out to the country where I had access to my stepfather’s vast array of tools and a forest full of trees. I picked up a chainsaw and cut some eastern red cedars to create my first piece, a bed frame painstakingly put together with mortise and tenon joints. When I sold it for $225 at the local bagel shop, Rustic Installations was born.
I held labor jobs throughout middle and high school, roofing my uncle’s warehouses or doing grunt work for construction companies. I also worked for a gigantic Yugoslavian cabinet maker who would throw hammers at me, but it was worth putting up with his temper to learn precision skills. After I graduated high school, my father gave me $100 and told me good luck. I was fortunate to find a good mentor who spent the next 15 years patiently teaching me the fundamentals of carpentry. We started with custom homes and by the end we were doing big timber framing projects like horse barns. I lived in a college town and all my friends were having the time of their lives, but I wasn’t going on dates or attending frat parties—I had to work! I went through years of depression over not being able to go to college, but today I feel that’s where I derived my tenacity and work ethic. Other valuable principles I learned during those years were finesse—don’t be a bull in a china shop and how to plan ahead. Staying organized requires thinking about what materials I’ll need for the next day so I can work efficiently.
One summer my mentor had nothing going on, so I worked for some other guys framing spec houses. I got hit by a 2x4 that split my head open, but they said if I left to go to the hospital I would lose my job, so I just put on a hat. The experience showed me my own work ethic, but also what I didn’t want to be as a professional—someone doing fast sloppy framing rat her than slow meticulous work. All that time I was also keeping up my side gig of Rustic Installations, working part-time on weekends to create wooden furniture, tiki bars and outhouses. After 15 years I got my first big job building a gazebo out of cedar, then another milestone came when I was commissioned to rebuild an old tenant house in my hometown of Chester, SC. This project utilized not only my creativity and craftsmanship, but also my problem-solving abilities, as experience had taught me to address issues in an efficient, timely manner.
Today my skillset and mindset allow me to quickly change direction on a project without obstructing the creative flow or compromising quality. In 2005 I moved to Bluffton and became a licensed residential builder. The first house I did on my own was a million-dollar remodel on Hilton Head. Later I was offered a job by Choate Construction, a very prestigious billion-dollar company. I became foreman, logistics director, and safety director on several projects, including the iconic Harbour Town Clubhouse in Sea Pines and Moreland in Palmetto Bluff. I learned how to handle huge projects, delegate to subcontractors, and keep logistics flowing smoothly at the jobsite. I always arrived two hours early and was the last one to leave, and only once in three years did I show up ten minutes late. I had pride and dedication because I loved it!
But after that I came to a crossroads: either I could live my dream, or let someone else pay me to help them live theirs. I was burnt out on the residential construction industry, which is basically the Wild West—dishonest, dog-eat-dog, and full of incompetence. So in 2014 I quit and turned all my attentions back to Rustic Installations. I did the interior of May River Excursions with driftwood and a nautical theme, then Vineyard 55 on Calhoun Street. It felt good to be back on my own.
In 2017 I got my first tabby commission through J. Banks Design Group to create a fireplace, outdoor fire pit, and sign base at Timbers Kiawah. I knew I’d found my niche! Here was something rare and unique, with historical as well as artistic value, and I was the only one doing it. I spent a year developing my proprietary tabby process until I found a way to make pieces that are durable, gorgeous, and practical to cast and install. I did jobs for elite contractors in the area, then a couple of magazine articles came out about me and business just exploded. At last
I was living the dream! I take great pride and joy in channeling my creativity through the skills I’ve worked hard to master. Bringing to life the history and romance of a bygone era in the Lowcountry is another rewarding aspect of my work. When I build custom pieces, I want to delight the heads, hands, and hearts of everyone who experiences them. I have been a laborer and a craftsman, but I am first and foremost an artist.