One set of hands, 1,000 works of art

Published 10:48 am Friday, November 2, 2018

Sam Taylor’s work is sturdy, yet delicate. His benches and stools hewn from found and recycled wood, some woven with seagrass, are rustic and handmade, a thousand times over.

This week, Taylor completed his 1,000th piece of woodworking artistry with a large sassafras and seagrass stool.

“It’ll probably be the last of those big ones like that. They get too hard to hold when you’re weaving the seagrass,” Taylor said.

Each piece is signed by the artist, along with its number. Taylor said he thinks, perhaps, he forgot to number the first few when he started making them 17 years ago, but he knows he’s passed the 1,000-plus milestone now.

A native of Beaufort County — he grew up on a farm just north of Washington — Taylor spent 30 years with the North Carolina Forestry Service after graduating from N.C. State University with a degree in forest management.

What was a hobby of restoring antique cane-bottom chairs segued into a part-time job in July 2016, when Taylor opened Sam’s Rustic Shop at the river end of North Market Street in Washington.

“That’s No. 1,000 that I’m working on. About half of (the 1,000) have been the woven seagrass seats on frames that were made from early tobacco sticks or either sassafras, ironwood or crepe myrtle — crepe myrtle, they’re the prettiest stools you’ve ever seen,” Taylor said. “Half of them are made from recycled pine, walnut or oak planks.”

UNIQUE SKILL: Taylor hand-weaves the seats of many of his benches with seagrass. (Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)

To fulfill the demand for wood, Taylor either combs the forest for fallen branches or takes old wood that can be reused off of others’ hands. For example, the second-story shelving from the old Bowers Brothers store on West Main Street was offered to him and has made its way into some of this creations.

Taylor doesn’t try to cover up nature’s work in his own — the scars on wood are just as much a part of nature as the grain. He leaves them rustic, rarely coating any piece with more than a layer of clear polyurethane.

“People like the natural finish,” Taylor said.

Taylor has no plans of slowing down production of stools, benches and tobacco stick stars, and now that 1,000 has been reached, he’s only going to be aiming higher.