When I walked into Beyond Country (tucked into a cozy back corner of High Hats Antique Mall in Cambridge City, Indiana), the primitive woodworking garnered my immediate attention. The walls and shelves are covered in beautiful, rustic wood pieces. This time of year, most are seasonal: signs with Red trucks, miniature screen doors with artfully placed poinsettias, wooden stars, salt shakers refashioned into charming snowmen, and much more.
But the prices made my jaw drop. While Beyond Country’s products are similar to those I admire in box stores, these homemade pieces are half the price. And, in my opinion, more skillfully done.
When I marveled at the prices, Chris Griffy, co-owner of Beyond County, replied, “It’s called Primitive Woodworking, you know? Not Pristine, New Fancy Wood Woodworking.”
The origin story of Beyond Country is a familiar one to many: a bored husband thrifting with his wife. Becky (the lovely wife) spotted a popular rustic style Birdhouse Fence. Chris liked it all right, but not enough to pay $80 for it. “I bet I can make you something like that,” he told Becky.
Chris got his hands on a radial saw and made good on his word. Becky loved her Birdhouse Fence-and so did everyone else. Orders began pouring in. By 2013, Chris and Becky had made 30-40 different items. That year they did their first show at the YWCA Christmas Village. That’s when the couple says the “bug really hit.” Today they’ve churned over 250 handmade pieces out of their basement workshop.
The Griffys are excited to see their products resonating with customers. “Sometimes I drive by a house and see one of my pieces on someone’s porch,” Chris smiled excitedly, “I have to slow down and look!”
Primitive Woodworking: Seeking the Flawed
Rustic, or primitive woodworking, is supposed to look a bit raw and unfinished. This type of woodworking embraces flawed wood and undone paint. Chris said,
I like to use the ‘prettiest ugliest’ wood. The mars give [the wood] character.
And Chris is frank: this marred wood isn’t expensive. Hence the earlier “primitive woodworking” comment. Chris explained, “I want to make a living-but I know what it’s like not to be able to afford certain things.”
“I Wouldn’t Sell It If It Wasn’t Right”
I’ve long thought my favorite rustic decor was a bit…overpriced. Chris’s straightforward remarks about his supply cost and pricing system confirmed my suspicions. We gaped at the racket of it all: “Things made in China sell [for] more than handmade,” Chris sighed.
Chris overheard a chance remark that made him see his reasonable prices in a different (and rather frightful) light. He described a browser picking up a piece, noting the price, then wondering, “I wonder what’s wrong with it?”
The Griffy’s want to be crystal clear: there is nothing wrong with their wares. (Editorial note: there’s something wrong with jacking up prices on scrap wood.)
Beyond Country fulfills custom orders of their primitive woodworking pieces with pleasure. See something you like on Pinterest? Shoot Beyond Country a message on their Facebook page and tell them about it. Send a picture. They are happy to discuss possibilities and prices.
Unfortunately, Becky was recently in a serious car accident and has a road of healing ahead of her. But the Griffy’s look to 2020 with pleasure. They’re grateful Becky emerged from that wreckage alive. They’re happy to be working with their hands and delighted to be meeting so many new people through Beyond Country.
What’s your favorite style of decorating? How do you decorate for the holidays? Let me know in the comments.
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