Cole Hastings takes joy from making furniture
By Alan K. Stout (Times Tribune)
Cole Hastings is a professional furniture maker and craftsman. He established his namesake company in 2008. A native of Philadelphia, he is a graduate of Kutztown University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, focusing on crafts with a concentration in furniture design. He also received a master’s degree in studio art at Maine College of Art. He and his wife, Rachel, live in Scranton.
Q: Can you give us a basic description of the type of work that you do?
A: I’m a maker. I make objects. A lot of what we do in the shop is commission-based, so if you have a particular piece that you’re looking to make, such as a dining room table, we’ll go through the whole process that you would have gone through 150 years ago with someone. We’ll start talking about what kind of woods you like and what kind of styles you like. I’ll whittle away at what you actually want, and then I’ll do digital drawings and show you 3-D renders of what the table would look like. I’ll then talk with you about different prices for different woods or different materials, you decide what you want, and we’ll build it.
Q: When did you first realize such work was something you might be interested in?
A: Before I went to Kutztown, I was a medieval re-enactor. I built medieval armor for a living, and I kind of went down that path of doing commission work. Originally, I just wanted to do it for myself, but then other people were like, “How much would you charge me to do something like that?” So I started building armor for people. I was sending suits of armor to theater departments and different re-enactors all over the country and Europe. And then I got serious about school, and I was looking for a school where I could expand on those skill sets. I was originally thinking about doing jewelry design, but at Kutztown, the furniture teacher kind of stole me away from the jewelry teacher. (Laughs) I got really obsessed with furniture and how important it was in your life.
Q: What do you enjoy about it the most?
A: It’s such an honest job. There’s this joy that you get when you make a piece that someone’s been dreaming about. Last year, I had a table at the ScrantonMade Holiday Market, and I had a table that was made from a slab of elm wood. A woman and her husband were looking at some tables, and she said, “That’s the one I want,” because she grew up on an Elm Street. Since then, her house has been demolished and the whole area has changed, but now she had an elm table. This year, she actually came back and bought another piece. You kind of build this rapport with people, and it becomes more than just, “I went to IKEA, and I bought this table.” It has a story to it.
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
A: My work is what I do. It’s almost all-consuming. Even when I have downtime, like after dinner, I’ll still be browsing design sites. I’m always in research mode. I’m always watching documentaries about materials and how things are made.
Q: Favorite music?
A: I’m a very big fan of ’90s pop rock. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Mika and the Fratellis. Lively, upbeat stuff. It’s good for shop work.
Q: Favorite vacation spot?
A: We once did a road trip down to the Southeast, and both my wife and I really enjoyed Tennessee. Pigeon Forge is really a lot of fun. It’s kind of surreal. It’s like Las Vegas in the middle of Tennessee.
Q: Favorite thing about NEPA?
A: I really love the people. And I always think of this as “Little Philadelphia.” There’s the culture, there’s the Italian Festival … you can get good Italian food, or Chinese, or Japanese, or whatever you’re hankering for, but you don’t have the traffic and the violence of Philadelphia. (Laughs.)
Q: Favorite food?
A: A Jewish dish called kreplach. It’s basically a Jewish dumpling, usually filled with beef.
Q: Favorite TV show?
A: “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” I grew up with it and have great memories of me and my dad watching it.
Q: Favorite quote or catchphrase?
A: “Make more with less.” — Buckminster Fuller.
Q: Favorite book or author?
A: “Everything I Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum. It’s a great collection of short stories. I highly recommend it. I’ve given it out three times and have never gotten it back, so I keep having to require it.
Q: Biggest pet peeve?
A: People that aren’t team players and don’t think of the betterment of society as a whole. I want to build more community. That’s what I’m always striving for, because I feel there’s always a place for everyone.
Q: Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
A: The medieval renaissance stuff sometimes shocks people. And I like Ariana Grande’s music.
Q: Have you had a defining personal moment?
A: Meeting my wife. Meeting her and getting to know each other. My mom always said, “There’s a lid for every pot,” and I used to refer back to that and say, “I don’t think I have a lid.” But when I met my wife, I knew it was my lid. Just the constant encouragement that we both give each other, and that really great relationship that we have. … She’s a librarian at the Delaware Valley School District, and that’s what brought us to this area. Every time I’ve ever doubted myself, she’s been right there to give me the encouragement to keep going. All of the success we’ve ever had is basically because of her.
Learn more about Cole Hastings @ www.colehastings.com