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Meet George Garvin of Garvinworks

Today we’d like to introduce you to George Garvin.

George, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
As far back as my childhood, I had an affinity for woodworking tools. My dad was a big do-it-yourselfer and always had hammers, saws, drills and other tools in his workshop area of the carport. It wasn’t long before I had “borrowed” a number of these implements to put into my own toolbox. I would build pushcarts and such for the amusement of myself and my siblings. Later, in my adult life, my dad showed me more advanced skills like lathe turning and using a router. We built an electric bass guitar together in 2002 that I still have and will treasure for the rest of my life. When my wife and I bought our first house in Cypress, I began making furniture to outfit our home.

Soon, others began asking me to build things for them, and I began a very casual side business of making furniture and decor. Recently, my wife – a native Houstonian – and I – a Texas transplant who moved to Houston in 1981, uprooted and followed our longtime dream of living in the Texas Hill Country. Bandera is where we have made our new home, and I was fortunate enough to have a structure on our property that I could convert into a workshop. I was working for a company in Bandera as project manager, but my wife suggested I do woodworking full-time since we moved to the Hill Country to pursue our dream of living a simpler, better life. It scared me to think of steering my ship away from the safe harbor of steady employment to start my own business, but I nonetheless jumped in feet first and began a furious campaign of building and marketing.

It has been slow going since Garvinworks became a full-time furniture business, but my clientele is gradually increasing. I still do work for clients in Houston, and I have been fortunate enough to also make furniture for people in my area: San Antonio, Helotes, and Boerne. I have done work for several interior designers, one of which is in Austin. Over the years, I have gravitated toward rustic, Texas-influenced and farmhouse style furniture, and that is what I specialize in. Although I have been doing woodworking for most of my life, I am still just as passionate and fascinated about turning wood into beautiful, functional pieces of furniture now as I was the first time I nailed two pieces of wood together as a child.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I can’t imagine a successful business that wouldn’t have struggles. In my startup, there have been many of the same obstacles that I’m sure other businesses face: lack of capital, not enough hours in the day, finding avenues to market and sell my products, setting myself apart from the competition. Also, as a sole proprietor, I must also be the CEO, the laborer, the accountant, the receptionist, the salesperson, the web developer, the social media connection, the designer, the engineer, and the delivery driver. On the outside, it might seem that facing these challenges would be off-putting to running one’s own business, but I wake up each day and I am thankful that I’m able to do what I love to do for a living, and I can’t wait to get to work every morning.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Garvinworks – what should we know?
I am a single owner/operator woodshop. I specialize in rustic, farmhouse, “shabby-chic” style furniture. I use non-typical methods for staining wood, and employ various methods of distressing, as well as vintage style chalk paints. For stained or natural wood tones, I prefer to use oils, wax, and oil-based varnish or shellac, which I apply by hand-wiping multiple coats. I make all different types of furniture: dining tables, coffee tables, end & display tables, kitchen islands, benches, nightstands, etc. and home decor: blanket ladders, serving trays, Texas flags, wine racks, etc.

I’m most proud of my ability to take a client’s idea for a furniture piece and make that idea exceed their expectations. I take extra time to make sure certain details are done to the best of my ability, and I take great care in my construction methods to make a piece of furniture that is not only beautiful but something that can be passed down for generations. When I am left to do most of the design work for a piece, I try to come up with elements that are unique, even if the piece still conforms to a specific style.

I look at the work of others very often. I like to see what the trends are, and the styles that are currently popular. What I notice frequently are the shortcuts taken to facilitate mass production and/or reduce the hours it takes to construct a piece. It makes for furniture that is unoriginal and unimaginative. It doesn’t “pop.” I don’t ever take shortcuts that compromise the quality of the work I do. I am all for time-saving, but not at the expense of my client.

I also have skills that are outside the realm of woodworking that supports and contribute to my business. My wife and I ran our own professional wedding photography business for many years. Although I no longer do photography for anything other than personal reasons, the skill, as well as the equipment, have carried over to my woodworking business and allowed me to create crisp, vivid images of my work that I can use on my website and social media. Running a wedding photography business also teaches you to develop sales skills that are critical when you must convince your clients to opt for your services over anyone else’s in a field where there are literally hundreds of others in your area who are in the same line of work. One thing I have learned in this case is it’s not the big things that set you apart. It’s all the little things that add up to making you a better choice than your competition. I let my customer know that I’m passionate about what I do. I show them I do work that is not typical and at the same time shines with individuality and creativity. I talk about the extra steps I take that are not absolutely necessary, but take the piece I’m working on to a higher level. I stress to my clients that I use materials that are either reclaimed or I source from a local sawmill or lumber vendor. I do as much as I can to support other small businesses in my area.

I also have pretty good knowledge of web development and have always designed and built my own websites. The advantage of this is I can modify or delete any aspect of my website at any time without having to depend on a third party.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My dad was a very intelligent man of many talents who taught me to love doing things for yourself, and to be curious about the world and one’s own abilities to learn. I have spent a lifetime expanding on this and pursuing many different interests: music, photography, computers, woodworking, cooking, gardening, motorcycling, fishing, and a few others. My dad taught me the fundamentals of woodworking, and to appreciate the creativity and satisfaction from taking pieces of raw lumber and turning them into something special.

My wife has also played a major role in my ongoing development as a businessman. Although she supports me in all that I do, she has no qualms about giving me criticism when it is needed. Sometimes very harsh criticism. She offers this brutal evaluation of my work not to berate me, but because she believes I am capable of more than I myself believe. And I am thankful for it because it has made me a better designer and builder. And I know my wife is one of my biggest fans; our home is filled with furniture that I have made for us. She is also responsible for me pursuing woodworking as a full-time career. One of the hardest things I have ever had to do is leave the security of my desk job and throw open the doors to an uncertain future. My wife suggested I do what I love to do for a living, and I haven’t looked back.

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Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Bill Binnings

    October 25, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Very happy for you and Lanette, George!! Live the dream, follow your passion….this is truly what you were born to do!!

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