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Wood not change a thing

image Mark Landers, owner of Landers’ Studio

AUSTIN - Woodworking has afforded Mark Landers, owner of woodworking company Landers’ Studio, an enviable life: an 18-step commute from his home to his attached shop every morning, the ability to work with his wife Christina, and two backyard tree houses that he built with zip lines, slides and a crane for his five grandkids.




    One thing, however, had long eluded Mark.
    “This is kind of an embarrassing thing, like the story of the shoemaker with no shoes,” he says with a good-natured laugh. “I promised Tina when we were getting married and putting our mattress on the floor that I would build her a bed. It took me 28 years to build our bed! But we do have some wonderful furniture from family that has meaning, and we have a few pieces of ours and pieces in the office that I’ve built.”
    Landers can probably thank his early foray into the law for teaching him convincing arguments for not building the bed sooner.
    “I had intended to go into law when I was in college, but during my junior year, I took a year sabbatical and framed homes,” he explains. “After I went back to school and finished up, I really loved seeing what I had done at the end of the day, so I went back into homebuilding. In 1975, I started a business called The Wood Joint, but we changed the name in the early ‘80s to better reflect what we did, which was design and build custom furniture.
    “I just love working with my hands,” he continues. “Over the years, we did a lot of architectural millwork that is primarily oriented towards restorations. We do a lot of lathe work – balusters, columns up to 10ft., carvings, mantels and newel posts – as long as the work is furniture grade. It’s hard to pigeon hole what we do; we do a wide range of woodworking. We really do pick and choose the commissions that we accept based on if they’re challenging for us, interesting, in our comfort zones and good values for our clients.”
    The work proved challenging and interesting enough to woo his wife into the business.   
    “Christina was actually previously an archeologist with the state,” Mark says. “When our son was born, she took time off from her job and she had a generous maternity leave. I asked her to come help me work on a dining table and ultimately she quit her job and started working with me in 1976. She currently does some work out in the shop and a lot of support work in the office.”
    Mark says that when it comes to work, he and Christina have “pretty much the same approach” which they share with those who work with them.
    “I tell apprentices that we aim for perfection with the knowledge that we’ll never achieve it, but it’s that half-step to infinity,” he says. “We want to give the client more than they were expecting and we have high expectations.”
    “The emphasis on architectural millwork needs to be – for it to be a good value – a centerpiece of furniture quality”, he adds. “I’ve done instances of what I call heroic furniture pieces for apartment leasing and clubhouses. For years, we would always have one of those in the pipeline. It’s that idea that we don’t crank out a lot of volume but it’s the careful, measured, well-designed pieces that we enjoy.”
    Mark says he hopes to continue what the company is doing, remain selective as to what they do and be a good value for their clients.
    “We’re blessed to be able to select the work that we do and I love what I do,” Mark says. “I’m 68 and I’ll never retire. We have a wonderful setup where I won’t need to as long as I’m physically able. Maybe since I’m never going to retire, I will use that time to build some furniture for my house!”
    Woodworking artisan Landers’ Studio in Austin offers architectural piecework and furniture for commercial and residential projects. –mjm

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Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net