Storytellers 11

Making furniture with a story.

 

A woodworker and a pastor are creating tables in their “spare” time.  These are not just any tables, and not just for practical purposes.

Shane Ash and Jeremy Dahn are storytellers. Rather than using words, their tools are wood, metal and fire. The combination of these two men’s talents and hearts manifests meaningful, excellently crafted furniture—primarily tables—with a story to them. Stories that are inspired by the lives of those who commission them, and that also unfold in the process of crafting them. These tables are more than just a place to eat or pile stuff on.

Shane is the pastor of New Beginnings church and Jeremy is a professional woodworker.  The friends began working together to build tables in Shane’s garage out of necessity when Post Coffee was under construction; they needed tables and wanted to save money.

“Lots of people can distress a table,” Shane explains. “It’s another thing to age a table, to create an old feel like a piece of barn wood that’s been around 50 or 60 years.”

The pair doesn’t just build tables; they engage in a long journey to hand-craft each detail using techniques like lighting the table on fire, welding metal, hours of hand rubbing and polishing.

Shane fell in love with the process. He loved using his hands for more than typing and holding books. It awakened his need to create and provided an outlet for it. He also felt reconnected to his childhood farm roots, and his father.

“My dad is a welder. I always looked at my dad and thought, ‘I’d like to be like that,’” he says. He realized he had never asked his dad to teach him, and so for the Post tables project, he did. “I spent hours and hours beside my dad watching him and him watching me. I walked away from that realizing I could do it, too.”

After that project was completed, Shane started thinking about how he could do it as part of his life. And, he wanted to do something with his son, Sam.

“I was trying to discover a way to engage my own son inside my life that is seen as a way of provision, to help him see himself in our provision for our family.” So Sam has helped Ash Tables Co. fill requests for their custom-made treasures.

Shane also values the relationship building with Jeremy as they work side by side. Jeremy teaches Shane the tools of the woodworking trade, and they share their own life stories while they build.

Shane’s work as a pastor entails a lot of intangible elements, and making tables leads to a satisfying, tangible finished product.

“As you build, every detail has story of perfection,” he says. “When you look over your work, you notice and realize, ‘that grind looks perfect,’ or ‘that’s good enough,’ or ‘I wish this could be better.’”

Before they begin a table, the men listen to a family’s story and incorporate elements into the materials and the creation process. They work through the production process itself and a story emerges as well. Those stories define the work, and inspire the table name.

Shane describes what he sees in the materials: hardened iron table legs can represent an unchanging foundation a family rests their life on, but that has been full of fire and heat and pain. With a little polishing and hand work, rubbing out the burns, and really doing the work, not running away from the pain, can result in beauty.

“Each detail of each table–like life—has lots of different hurts and pain and beautiful moments all put together. I’m OK with our tables being perfectly imperfect because that’s part of the story. Just like the stories of our lives.”

Why tables? A deep philosophy lies in the answer.

“A table is the center of the world. It is where all good things happen. Every good story I’ve heard in my life has been at a table. Every good story I’ve ever told has been at a table. All life transitions happen at a table. Children are shaped there. Family history is told there.”