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Michael Moran’s Passion for the Plank

Besides fast fashion, today we also have fast furniture. Ikea is the most well known but now with Etsy and even the particle board cabinets found at Pottery Barn, many pieces of our furniture won’t be passed down to our kids (Hell, our movers refused to move anything from Ikea since it is so flimsy)

So it is refreshing when we meet young and local wood workers like Michael James Moran. Michael is based in Charleston, South Carolina and has spent a lifetime making things.  Moran laughed, “My dad was a carpenter before going to medical school and becoming a college professor. There was always the notion that if you needed something you had to figure out how to make it!”

In college Michael met a furniture maker in Charleston and started working with him developing his own sense of design and a better understanding of wood and furniture. At 23 he opened his own shop with zero business knowledge. “I am really glad I did it since I didn’t know a lot about opening a business  but luckily it worked,” he told us. Since then his business has grown by word of mouth and with the help of his fiance, Celia Gibson, who worked for the Tate in London in their publishing sector while in graduate school in London. “She knows art very well and is very good with finances so it made sense when she finished school for her to come aboard,” he explained.

We sat down with him to hear more about his passion for the plank.

Tell us a bit about where you source your wood?

3-4 years ago we wanted to work with wood that we knew the source of. We want  to avoid suppliers and middle men and we want to work with the person putting their hands on the trees. We do not support clear cutters or big operations.

Some of our vendors are second or third generation millers. They sell us either responsibly downed trees that were near the end of their life or trees that come down from storms. We got 1000 board feet from some Himalayan trees that came down from a tornado in Augusta, Georgia. We work with the City of Charleston tree crew so we can use what they take down if it is in good condition.  We went to Kentucky and stumbled upon a big chunk of walnut that was left from a trophy factory that closed down. We love to pass the story on about the wood, where it came from and how it feels as much as we can.

What is your inspiration for furniture?

I like the simplicity of modern lines. I also am influenced by Nakashima’s work. Also, pieces that are highly referential to its original form, showing the raw edges, etc.

I spent a lot of my youth outside so I am always aware of nature and want to show the life of the trees before they were these objects. Once I made a pact never to cut anything down older than me. But I realized until I’m in my 90s there will never be a tree that I work with that will be younger to me. So it is a great patience game. What you do with it shouldn’t be fast.

Where do you sell?

90% is commission work. We sit down with people and get an idea of how the piece needs to work. We do have some  pieces I have made to sell and we can play with the form.

We are working on a line of limited addition pieces in certain styles or made from a certain lot, tree or place. People can always come to the studio as well. Most pieces there are available for sale. People usually give a ring to give a heads up!

Cator Sparks
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Cator Sparks was the Editor-in-Chief of The Manual from its launch in 2012 until 2018. Previously, Cator was covering…
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