We Get Inside the Mind of A Craftsman with Jonathan Kauffman of Kauffman & Co.

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Eleven years ago, Jonathan Kauffman took some extra wood from a friend who had just taken down an old barn, and decided to craft something out of it. That something turned out to be a table—a table that was used in his family’s new home for years. Kauffman fell in love with wood crafting that day, and ultimately opened his own furniture crafting company because of it.

Based in Charlotte, NC, Kauffman and Co. uses reclaimed wood to create everything from tables to bedframes. Eager to talk about his unique pieces, Kauffman agreed to give us some insight into his business and his craft.

QC: What made you decide to create your own company, and what made you decide to create it in Charlotte?
K: I was traveling every week as a wine broker, but I always knew I wanted to have my own business. I’m originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and was inspired by the beautiful handcrafted furniture I grew up with from our Amish and Mennonite communities. Their craft is a lost art, and it inspired me to bring it to Charlotte. I’ve always loved Charlotte—it is a city of endless opportunities. My wife and I moved here in 1999 right after we were married. Due to the diverse nature of the community and the amazing friends we made, we felt that it would be a great place for a showroom.

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QC: What was the most memorable piece or set that you’ve made?
K: My most memorable piece was a 20-ft. long conference table made from reclaimed antique White Pine. It was one piece of wood, and was so large it required eight guys to deliver and set it up. I also built a live-edge Wormy Maple, family-style table and outfitted their truck for True Pizza in Ballantyne. This was a great project because I know several people will sit at it each week and enjoy their meal with their family.

QC: With your experience, are you able to tell the difference between a piece made without that care and attention to detail and a piece made with it?
K: Yes—it’s very easy to tell the difference between a piece manufactured in a factory and a piece which was handcrafted. The manufactured piece often will hide the true character of the wood and natural finishes, while we embrace and accentuate it.

QC: That attention to detail has led to a lot of custom orders for Kauffman and Co. Can you talk a little bit about the process and kind of service you provide to a walk-in customer looking for something unique?
K: We offer design consultation and work with our clients to hand pick the species of wood by understanding how it will be used, the environment, location, look, and budgetary concerns. Once we finalize the dimensions, style, and material, it goes to our build shop. We often don’t finalize it until our customers can come see the raw, unfinished piece. Typically, our pieces take six weeks from the time they walk in the door with an idea to the time it is delivered to their home or business. Currently, live edge tables seem to be the most popular, but reclaimed tables are always in demand as well as barn doors and mantles.

QC: Where does Kauffman & Co. get its wood? Is it sustainably-sourced?
K: All reclaimed wood is sustainable and most of our live-edge furniture is from damaged trees. Most of our reclaimed lumber comes from Pennsylvania and New York state with the abundance of old barns and farms in that region.

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QC: You have a powerful quote you use:

“He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.” – St. Francis of Assissi.

Can you talk a little bit about what this quote means to you and to the mission of your company?
K: Everything we do is a science and an art due to the precision needed in building custom furniture, but also the passion needed to work with the customer and bring their designs to fruition. Anyone can do their “job,” but those who have a passion for what they do are artists. I believe this is true no matter what your profession.