Sit Down and Gather ‘Round: Colby Wade Carper of Salted Grain
Interviews & Features
Serving the dual role of function and aesthetic, furniture holds a special place in human home life. Balancing this teeter-totter between practicality and beauty presents a special challenge for furniture makers, but it’s a task that local designers Justin Brown of Justin Brown Designs and Colby Wade Carper of Salted Grain take on with enthusiasm, poise and gusto. Respectively specializing in chair and table design, these two artists create pieces that look good and function well, each showcasing a unique approach to ideas of form, durability and purpose.
“I see a table as a place that creates space for a group of people—whether it’s a family, friends or co-workers,” says Colby Wade Carper of Salted Grain. “People are together around a table. I love that tables are a statement in a home and they are typically passed down as mementos of memories remembered and moments shared.” He makes a point: Think of all the laughs and tears that have been shared over your kitchen table; all the good and bad, it happens right there.
Carper started creating at a young age. “I have always been drawn to creating things with my hands and loved building. I grew up helping my father with projects around the house, figuring out how things go together learning to use tools,” he says. In fact, he also acknowledges the influence of PBS’s New Yankee Workshop, of which he was a big fan. As he grew, he became interested in architecture, leading to him discovering his passion for furniture building.
“It’s more than just a piece of furniture. We’re creating art—and art can be an extension of ourselves.”
Carper was born with the talent of pure craftsmanship, which is one I’ve always been envious of. How does one do that? How do you see something in their mind and turn it into a reality? I may never know, but Carper always has. You can tell just from looking at the gallery page on his website (saltedgrain.com) that he is a man of diligence, quality and expertise, which are three traits we as a society could always use more of. As big corporations continue to grow and as the public continues to buy everything they could possibly need from them, it’s important to remember people like Carper. His work is not an IKEA table that will last for a few years until the plastic leg breaks off—Carper makes art. His are pieces of integrity that can be passed down from generation to generation, and what a beautiful thing that is.
Carper originally started making furniture because it was his creative outlet. “I have always looked at things and thought, ‘I can build that,’” he says. “Building and designing furniture is a way of expressing myself. I spent a lot of time dreaming about being a furniture maker.” And then, he became one. Just as Carper turns sketches into tangible pieces of art, he turned his passion into his life. The result? Salted Grain.
“One of the wonderful things about woodworking is that you’re always learning.”
Carper says that his first actual commissioned piece was for some friends who wanted a table built out of a walnut tree that was on their family’s apple orchard. Carper jumped on the opportunity, and in return his life would forever be changed. For Carper, it’s not about the end result—beautiful furniture—it’s about the process. “I loved the challenge and the process and learned a lot along the way, from finding a mill to mill the large slabs, then figuring out the drying process, then flattening the slabs and then—finally—building a beautiful table. When I delivered that first table and saw it in their dining room, I knew I would pursue my dream,” he says.
Since then, Carper’s process has evolved into a second nature. He lets the wood guide the way, leaving the flaws in the grain to “stand out,” making the piece feel even more authentic. His personal creative process comes in when choosing the perfect base and legs that attract people to the table. Since starting Salted Grain, Carper has created comfortable environments for some of Salt Lake’s favorite places, including Seabird Bar and La Barba coffeehouse. But Carper says his favorite piece Salted Grain has done this far is the crib he made for his sons, and he can’t wait to create art with them one day. Along with the crib, Carper hopes to keep making tables, of course, but he also wants to master the chair. He says, “A lot goes into designing the joinery in chairs, and it needs to be functional and comfortable.”
“I have always looked at things and thought, ‘I can build that.'”
But, overall, Carper just wants to continue creating art for the community. He wants to be known for uniqueness and quality, and he wants to keep learning more about the art of woodworking.“I’m always learning about new techniques and ways to implement the ideas I have churning in my head,” he says. “One of the wonderful things about woodworking is that you’re always learning—or at least I am. So, I want to continue to make innovative pieces and learn new ways of marrying function to form. I also have really enjoyed the process of getting to know a client and understanding what their specific needs are. So, I want clients to know that when they’re working with me, it’s more than just a piece of furniture. We’re creating art—and art can be an extension of ourselves.”
Carper has a passion and talent that is undeniable. His work is true art, where memories are made. Find more information on Carper’s work with Salted Grain at saltedgrain.com.