New shop features rustic, reclaimed and a vanishing art

Published 6:24 pm Monday, August 29, 2016

Sam Taylor makes stars. These stars are made from hand-split pine tobacco sticks used to dry tobacco many years ago. They have rustic charm, as does everything else that can be found in Sam’s Rustic Shop, including the artist himself.

In July, the Beaufort County native opened up shop on South Market Street. There, his stars and handcrafted stools can be found, along with walking sticks and mallets and a separate collection of vintage glass bottles imprinted with names and dates from the century past. Taylor primarily repurposes pine, oak, walnut, red cedar, ironwood, gum and sassafras woods into usable works of art, complete with scars from the past included, though opening his own store downtown gives him the opportunity to not only sell his work, but to share his craft.

“I turned 81 a while ago, and I thought, if I’m ever going to do it, I need to go ahead and do it,” Taylor laughed.

Taylor is passing down his knowledge — the art of caning furniture that he and his mother learned at the side of an elderly Old Ford woman named Carrie Cooper. Those who know how to do the intricate work of caning are hard to come by these days, but Taylor is happy to share with anyone who wants to learn.

“They bring it (a project) in here and tell me what they want to do. You would do it; you would need to order the materials, but as for charging anything, there’s no charge for me showing you how to do it,” Taylor said.

Jerry Creech has taken him up on the offer.

“I’ve been a student of Sam’s for a couple of weeks now and have been able to work on a couple of chairs. I’ve completed two, and we’re working on a third,” Creech said.

In a little room off of Taylor’s showroom, a re-caned rocking chair is nearly completed. The chair, previously battered by time and the elements, belonged to Creech’s father, but has now been restored to its original appearance with Taylor’s help.

Taylor said he views his work and how he shares it with others as a way to fulfill an obligation to help others — an obligation his mother, Dorothy Taylor, instilled in him, even later in life.

“After my retirement from the Forestry Service, mother said, ‘Sam, you’ve been blessed. You need to help other people more now that you’ve retired,’” Taylor said.

After he moved back to Washington in 2001, he became a volunteer with The Blind Center of North Carolina. Ten years ago, he found a guide to making rustic pieces in Barnes & Noble. He’s been using it since.

“I bought that, and that was the beginning of making the little stars,” Taylor said. “With restoring old furniture, you’re bringing something back to what it looked like a hundred years ago. But with what I’m doing now, I can be creative.”

Sam’s Rustic Shop is located at 108 S. Market St., Washington. Taylor said those who’d like to learn how to re-cane furniture or make tobacco-stick stars are welcome to stop by.