Give Local, Handmade Gifts This Holiday Season

It’s hard to believe that fall is here and with it, the anticipation of the holidays. (What happened to September?) This time of year is one of the busiest and most fun times of the year for Matrix Design Group. Because this is the season of gift-giving, when customers come to us to create handmade gifts—something one of a kind, something local—for their loved ones. These types of projects are rewarding for us, both in the process of learning about our customers and finding that exact thing that is going to put a smile on the face (or sometimes a tear in the eye) of the one receiving it.

So when you are creating your Christmas list and want to show someone how much they mean to you, Matrix can help with handmade gifts that will blow doors on something you purchase from Amazon. Whether it’s as simple as a set of garden hooks or as dramatic as a custom sculpture, we got you. Get your orders in soon—handmade gifts take a bit more time to create!

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Just in time for Halloween, this cute little forged owl keychain doubles as a can opener. 

 

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These roses make great gifts. We had one customer who purchased a dozen to give out to loved ones at a family reunion. They also appeared on the Bachelor TV show.

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Pottery by Luci Prestwood of Matrix Design Group is understated and elegant. Above, add sand to a votive for a pretty incense holder, below, unfinished pottery makes sweet votives or salt pigs. 

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Can you tell we love incense? This incense holder is made out of steel and is great for sticks or the compact kind that is so popular.

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Matrix Design Group Metal Owl Sculpture. We can make custom sculpture of virtually anything. 

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Forged metal hooks require no nails (see image below) and can be hammered directly into the wall. Great for keys near the door, and strong enough to hang potted plants.

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Another custom forged hook. Perfect for holding kitchen utensils, keys, towels, plants, and more. 

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We love making knives at Matrix. Above, a forged letter opener. Below, an unfinished Damascus knife. Imagine what a great handmade gift this would make with a custom handle! 

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A Matrix Design Group original, custom tray made of metal scraps. 

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Turned vases are beautiful gifts, each one unique in its markings. This one is made from a dogwood stump. 

Think outside the box with Matrix Design Studio time, which allows your loved one to spend several hours with Kelly Prestwood in his studio in Alexander, very near Asheville. They will come away with new crafting skills (forging, welding, turning wood, you name it) and a project to take home.

 

If you want to give something unique for your loved one this holiday season let’s get started. Give us a shout below: 

Handmade Custom Dining Room Tables for Thanksgiving

The holidays seem to be a time when people start to spruce up their home to prepare for parties, house guests, and the Thanksgiving feast. We get a lot of orders this time of year for handmade custom dining room tables from people who want something bigger or something that means a little bit more than what they might purchase from Pottery Barn or the like—not to mention local, made right here in Asheville. We’ve put together some of our favorite dining room tables (and custom bar) we’ve designed to show you the possibilities. The only real limit is your imagination, and that’s where ours takes over.

We’d love to sit down with you to discuss your lifestyle, your family, and come up with designs for a custom dining room table just in time for Thanksgiving. 

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Contemporary ash tables with six rotating chairs that will raise and lower to accommodate all guests. 

 

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Above and below, kitchen island with integrated knife holder and cutting board stations. Made with reclaimed white oak and walnut top and birch veneered front.

 

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Another view of the kitchen island with integrated knife holder and cutting board stations.

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Live-edge table and bench for a cozy dining spot!

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A reclaimed white oak table with butterfly spline accents in a breakfast nook. 

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This view is of a desk, not a table, but the concept can be applied to anything. It shows the detail of a steampunk-style quarter-sawn red oak desktop in which the customer wanted gears and mechanical motifs integrated seamlessly into the wood. 

The underside of a table, while not very useful for holding up a turkey and pumpkin pie, is interesting to look at for us furniture makers, if only to see how strong it is. This picture shows the underside of a table we made for an interior designer and its connection points.

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This is actually a complete dining table. It is a piece of spalted maple that the client then covered with glass to complete the look.

See something you like? Want something completely new? Drop us a note and let’s get your project going. 

Forged in the Fire: Philosophical Musings on Forging Steel

Blacksmiths live irregular lives. When you are forging steel to make your livelihood, you find yourself keeping odd hours, for one. When it starts heating up in the summer months, I forge all night and sleep some of the day. When it’s cold outside, I come out of hibernation like a bear blinking in the sunlight and light up the days with fire and heat. We don’t keep the shop air conditioned, preferring to forge in synchronicity with the seasons and the weather.

As anyone who’s ever tossed and turned knows, you can get into a fog after a night of no sleep. Keeping normal relationships with diurnal folks means you just may not sleep at times…for longer periods than most are used to. Yesterday, after noticing in dismay as the morning sun was lighting up the sky, I began thinking about the meaning of life in a insomnia-induced waking reverie as I pounded steel. With sheer force I tried to induce the steel into the shapes that I deemed appropriate whether it’s functional, a piece of art, or a little of both.

The idea for this blog popped into my head and I started thinking about writing in general. With writing, you pluck words out of the air and arrange them neatly into sentences, limited only by your creativity and confidence. With steel, it’s like the words haven’t been invented yet, or even the letters. You are taking something that vehemently does not want to be moved and forcing it to yield with fire and a massive hammer. There is nothing neat about it as we struggle with nature ever time in a sort of primordial battle, reinventing nature’s rules with each blow.

This got in my head as I pondered in my hypnagogic state the meaning of the work that we do at Matrix. We make stuff from material that puts up a fight, daily, nightly, year after year. It’s my job and my passion. But it wears on me, that constant resistance renewed daily.

But then again, when you heat, deform, and finish a piece of steel, the metal is transformed. It can withstand extreme pressure yet still maintain structural integrity under stress. Forged metal is harder, stronger, and more durable than cast or machined metal. It’s the pressure that makes it so. Forging in fire is so transformative that it has become an idiom that means something has been made stronger by the process—figurative or literal—of applying heat and pressure. It’s easy to draw a parallel to life in general.

 

This steel is kicking my butt, but in the process, it’s fortifying both me as a person, the product that we make at Matrix every day, and our team at large. We are getting stronger, more creative, bigger, and better. We are creating art and tools and fixtures and more from the hardest thing in the world from which to create—stubborn, assoholic steel. But then again, I can’t say we would have it any other way.

So, with a renewed appreciation and optimism for all the exciting projects we have coming down the pipeline, I want to thank Matrix customers for the opportunity to create something meaningful with an obstinate medium. We look forward to a long, hot, grueling, and transformative summer.

Asheville Chocolate’s New Custom Sign Is Sweet

Creating custom signage for local businesses, like the one we recently completed for Asheville Chocolate, can be tricky, but fun. Tricky in the sense that you are dealing with someone’s brand identity, which calls for attention to detail like nobody’s business. Fun because you get to see that vision come to life in the most visible part of their business, which means seeing a smile on the client’s face if you’ve met that goal.

A month or two ago, Asheville Chocolate, located at 25 Broadway in downtown Asheville, asked us to create their sign to match their logo as part of a complete relaunch/rebrand. The sign includes the logo on a light purple background, surrounded by forged cacao pods, leaves, and flowers.

We worked with the owners to download their vision, then executed the sign, with Luci doing her magic on the welding and painting, then helping with the installation, which was tricky because the construct above the sign was made of plaster and it was hard to find an anchor point. The installation also required a little extra care on our part—the sign was heavy, the day was hot, and the leaves were sharp. (Ouch.)

The Asheville Chocolate custom sign is now visible as you walk down Broadway. Stop in and get chocolate sauced, as they say. 

 

Asheville Chocolate Sign, Beginning Stages

The beginning stages of building the Asheville Chocolate sign, including cutting and adhering the letters. 

Asheville Chocolate Sign, Woodwork Complete

Woodwork complete. Time to get to forging.

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A cacao pod forged to match the drawing. 

Asheville Chocolate Sign, Painted

Luci matching the PMS colors of the logo with paint.

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Luci and I installing the Asheville Chocolate sign on Broadway.

Asheville Chocolate Sign, Complete

Tada! 

If you have a signage need, give me a call at 828-712-1996 or shoot me an email. Our signs can be seen all over Asheville, including main hanging signs and sidewalk signs downtown at Old Europe, Strada, Posada, April Cornell, Studio Chavarria, and more.