Furniture maker working to save legacy of North Carolina

Furniture maker working to save legacy of North Carolina


FARMVILLE, N.C. — High Point is known as the world’s furniture capital, and a Pitt County man wants the area to continue to wear the crown. 

According to the High Point Museum, following World War II, an estimated 60% of all furniture made in America was made within a 150 mile radius of High Point. Now, more than 75 years later, Stuart Kent of Pitt County is working to keep the state’s furniture legacy alive.

 

What You Need To Know

  • High Point is known as the Furniture Capital of the World
  • Following WWII, an estimated 60% of all furniture made in America was made within a 150 mile radius of High Point
  • Stuart Kent is hoping to continue the state’s legacy by teaching people the craft of furniture making at the North Carolina Furniture School

 

In the heart of the small town of Farmville sits the North Carolina Furniture School.

“I am a teacher. It’s what I do. I like to teach,” said Kent, the owner and founder of the North Carolina Furniture School.

It seems like a run-of-the-mill place, but Kent is doing something very important there.

“The skill set that I have is diminishing at a social level and at a societal level. Less and less people have the skills as each year goes on,” Kent said.

Kent has a long list of accolades. He was a Fulbright Scholar and created a curriculum for sculpture classes at the National University of Costa Rica.

“I just love the process of crafting things, just making things by hand. It’s a connection to the earth and making beautiful things that are functional,” Kent said.

Luckily, his business survived the pandemic.

“We were able to effectively close the school during COVID and shift our energies over to the custom design shop and just focus on that,” Kent said.

Now, he’s back, teaching at the school full time, continuing his mission to save the furniture manufacturing industry that North Carolina is known for.

“Oil is to Texas as furniture is to North Carolina. You cannot separate those things from the states. They are requisite for those states to have the economic engines that they have,” Kent said.

From the most basic elements of woodworking to using digital fabrication machines, he wants to teach people the ins and outs of it all. 

“I will often set up a big batch of parts on the machine and let that run while I am handcrafting at the bench,” Kent said.

There are also some life lessons to learn along the way. “We do make mistakes. I make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes in this process. Or you have issues with the material or a piece of equipment, and like all that is going on in the world right now, you have to learn to overcome those and make it happen,” Kent said.

All of thisv is in the pursuit of preservation.

“I see us in many ways as being able to support the changing industry at a vital time,” Kent said.

Classes with Kent are back up and running at the North Carolina Furniture School. To learn more, visit the North Carolina Furniture School website.

Kent has also partnered with the Durham company ShopBot Tools to teach people how to use their machines.



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