Couple spends evenings in Sawdust Dreams
It can never be said that Pocahontas County is lacking in talented crafters or homemade crafts. You see dozens of folks at booths and tents at the local festivals and fairs selling their work, but a visit to Sawdust Dreams in Edray is an experience all its own.
The artsy, woodworking operation, owned by locals Cleva Friel and Jeff Shaw, sells all kinds of handmade trinkets, furniture and art.
“Jeff builds all the furniture, then I do all the carving and the painting,” explained Friel. “We also do our own photo mats for people, and then he builds all the frames.”
“Pretty much everything is done by hand except for the glass and the lamp shades,” added Shaw.
Even though they've only had the shop located next to their house for a couple years, they've been traveling and selling their wares at local events for three or four years now.
“We kind of lucked into the building,” said Shaw. “We were on a job and a guy tore it down — we just moved it out of his way.”
According to them, the warm, welcoming showroom isn't really a storefront, but it provides them with a chance to better maintain their inventory and present their art.
“We go to craft shows all over,” Friel said. “It used to be we'd make stuff and then stick it in the trailer. We'd get ready to go to a show and we wouldn't know what we had. Jeff built this, basically so we could put stuff out as we made it. Then when we get ready to go to a show, we can load it up and we know what we have.”
Shaw said people would see something, or they'd call and want something and it would be in the trailer.
“To get to it, we might have to unload the whole trailer,” he laughed. “We thought we'd just make a place here where we'd set it up and we'd know what we had. People can come along and see it, here it is.
Friel said they've set up at the Harvest Festival and the Holiday Craft Show in Marlinton, and they travel to Monterey, Summersville and Buckhannon pretty regularly, as well. This was also the first year they've attended a couple events at Snowshoe and that turned out really well.
“We really got a lot of good feedback,” Friel said. “We got a lot of people that got our business card and would give us a call and place orders. Most of it's done that way, nothing is mass produced.”
Oddly enough, most of their customers aren't local. They've sold pieces to people from all over the country, and it's their reasonable prices that keep many customers coming back.
“A lot of people tell us that about the prices,” Friel said. “We get a lot of repeat customers that will come back because of it and that's always a good feeling. We had one gentleman that would come from Pittsburgh, he'd come every year to the Harvest Festival and buy a piece of our work. We get a lot of people that are traveling from different places. This summer someone came and bought a cabinet they were taking to Texas.”
“We had another guy come, he bought one of these [carved wooden coat racks] and said he was putting it in a log cabin in Montana,” added Shaw.
Shaw has worked construction since he was in high school. Nowadays, he builds log homes for Creative Builders — when the economy is good, he joked. That's actually how Sawdust Dreams came to be, Friel started salvaging logs leftover from job sites that Shaw worked at and started making and carving lamps.
All their material is local, the wood comes from either job sites, Industrial Timber and Land, or Inter-state Hardwoods. Friel collects all the leaves she paints and the intricately painted turkey feathers come from local hunters.
When you see the artwork, it's amazing to think Friel does everything by hand, without using any patterns or anything to work from. She does all the carving using both hand-tools and a power carver, and when it comes to wood, she said she prefers to use poplar because it carves well and has a nice, tight grain to it.
“I'm kind of self-taught, and I probably break all the rules,” laughed Friel. “I'm probably doing things you're really not supposed to be doing! Sometimes the wood dictates how it turns out, too. You may start on a buck and end up with a doe.”
Friel said she feels comfortable in a workshop on account of her upbringing.
“My grandfather [Lee Hammons] made dulcimers and banjos and stuff,” she said. “So I kind of grew up around the workshop.”
Both of them stay busy with full-time jobs, but they spend most of their off-hours in the shop. Shaw calls it a hobby, but Sawdust Dreams is really a full-time job in itself.
“Someone asked me one time how long it took to carve one of the fish,” Friel said. “I said 'oh, not very long, maybe two or three hours.' They said 'really?' So, I started to time myself. It got kind of depressing when you think about how much we're selling it for, and how many hours we put into it — so I quit doing that!”
Most of the artwork has either a West Virginia or wildlife theme to it and Friel tastefully decorates the showroom according to the season.
“We just decorated everything for Christmas,” she said. “Then in the fall we had pumpkins and stuff in here in case someone came by. We started doing things for the Wine and Jazz Festival [at Snowshoe] and we tried to bring stuff with rabbits on them. When we go to Monterey I try to do a lot of brown trout stuff because of the fishing there. Every show we try to find something we can take that we don't see somewhere else.”
If you're looking for holiday gift ideas, or just love local art and quality woodwork, the showroom is open every evening until Christmas from 5:30 to 8 p.m., and on weekends when they're home.
“Anytime someone wants to come by, they can give us a call at 304-799-7317,” offered Friel.
“We don't have two of the same thing,” said Shaw. “If we sell something, we might make another one, but it's hand carved, so it's never exactly the same.”