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Meet David O’Brien of Hawk and Stone in South Central

Today we’d like to introduce you to David O’Brien.

David, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I have my degree in Industrial Design from Massachusetts College of Art. I took advantage of the facilities there and took a bunch of electives in metalworking, glass, and wood. After graduating, I moved out west with a couple of college roommates and started working at a new nightclub. I kept that job for five years while I juggled creative day jobs.

I worked at a luxury automotive interior company that did wood steering wheels, dash panels, and shift knobs. There wasn’t a ton of room to grow with this business, so I kept looking. I then landed at a kinetic architecture firm. It was there that I really got a ton of hands-on experience in a design-build atmosphere. We worked on large fold away nesting doors to glass brick brownstone facades to motorized origami art installations.

I realized I like to design but only if I can have a part in building it. I love architecture, but I like the scale of furniture and the ability to carry out your designs yourself. When the economy went south, we got three stop-work orders over two weeks, and the funds disappeared. I was lucky to still have a bad job. A friend reached out to see if I would work on a tv show building sets and I ended up doing that for a few years. It was a different pace and style of craft.

The money was good, but the amount of waste created always bothered me. While working other jobs, I designed a small line of furniture in 2011 and was producing it in my home garage and selling on Etsy. My designs started selling, and I started investing in more tools. Around 2014, I had really outgrown my garage and found a space with two other woodworkers. I’m still sharing a space with one of them now and it’s been a great experience.

I now mostly work with designers and individual clients designing and building custom furniture. My business has grown very naturally over the years through word of mouth and repeat business. I am still a one-man show with occasional help on larger jobs.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I think the biggest struggle is running the business. I’m more of an artist than a businessman. The business side can put a strain on your creative flow. I work best with specific clients with specific needs. I can’t just design a bed. I need direction and constraints.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I’m constantly on the hunt for the best quality local woods available. I like to find unique, one of a kind pieces that are already works of art. I use these pieces to inspire the design.

I’ve had multiple clients see my shop and say how they didn’t even appreciate wood until they saw all the different wood leaning around. I like to get my materials in the most raw form available and then start refining them into something beautiful.

Buying boards from the lumber yard can be limiting. I search for large slabs so that I can make the decision on how I want to cut them up and follow the grain or include the live edge or not. I think my biggest asset is problem-solving. I love to be challenged and coming up with beautiful solutions is where I shine.

What were you like growing up?
I loved being outdoors. I would build forts and traps and hide in the woods for hours! I used to carve my own arrows and make my own bows. I lived next to a lumberyard and would wheel my red wagon over and pick through their scrap bin daily.

I built multiple tree houses from those scraps. One was five levels! My favorite thing to do was catch frogs and crawfish and go fishing for bass.

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