Local artisans, Jesse LaPrees and David Woodside, started tinkering in the workshop together seven years ago. At the time, they were just a couple of guys messing around. Today, their company, Moonshine Wood and Steel, makes everything from bike racks to conference tables. They don’t believe in limiting themselves in product. In fact, their motto is, “If you dream it, we can build it.” To Woodside and LaPrees, building dreams is just a matter of a little ingenuity and elbow grease.
Moonshine Wood and Steel combines the aesthetic of mid-century modern design with a hard, rustic edge. It’s simultaneously industrial and eclectic without being overtly “trendy.” It’s modest furniture that is meant to withstand the test of time, as well as design. Imagine, Don Draper mixed with a dash of Jesco White.
“Some of our ideas actually come from being tired of seeing big-box store furniture or cabinetry and just wanting to set things back to when everything was handmade,“ Woodside said.
Adhering to a creative design that endures requires carefully considering each piece and the materials that go into it. For each project, Woodside and LaPrees select each type and cut of wood to best complement the piece. The selection is part craft and part intuition.
“I look for character. I want to see a lot of knots and stuff,” Woodside said. ”When I’m looking for pieces, I’m looking for imperfections.”
Imperfections keep wood alive and thriving in the pieces designed by Moonshine Wood and Steel. It’s one thing mass-produced furniture cannot replicate, if only because each imperfection stands out in its own unique way. Artisans, by nature, are skilled at exposing the essence of their material.
Like many craftsmen, both LaPrees and Woodside grew up in their father’s garages, working beside them. Using their hands at an early age, they learned not only the love of building something, but the patience and resourcefulness of the craft.
“My dad worked in advertising, you know, sign work and like that,” LaPrees said. “He would never hire jobs out. If he didn’t know how to do a project, he would figure out how to. Seeing him be able to create something, without help, made me want to creatively figure out ways to do things.”
The ability to work through the process and learn means more for competency than know-how. LaPrees and Woodside stress this.
“Every day you learn something. You will always mess up.” Woodside said. ”Hopefully, it’s not bad enough where you have to start over. It’s constantly learning, and I don’t think you will ever completely learn the amount [of effort] that goes into it.“
Making mistakes together has been something they have been doing for the past seven years. Both had day jobs and would meet late at night after working in various restaurants to help each other build things.
Woodside said that they would spend that time, “just drinking beer and messing with wood, [usually around] midnight when I got off work.”
Those late-night get-togethers under the moonlight are what spawned Moonshine Wood and Steel, although, they will admit to having a little homebrew now and again.
LaPrees and Woodside both credit their skill to these consistent meetings, where they could learn together and learn by mistake. However, to them, skill is a fluid word. It’s a trial-and-error process and there’s never a mile marker to be passed. Learning a craft is more of pursuing passion than mastering a skill. But, that’s not to say there isn’t a difference between those early days and today.
Perhaps you could say that back then, they were tinkering together, but today, they are tinkering together — for the better.