Stump Standards Creating Custom-Made Furniture -
American essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Every artist was once an amateur.”
Portsmouth, Ohio, artist Wayne Stump
hopes he never loses his amateur status. “I’m comfortable staying an amateur, because I’m
always learning. I have way too many ideas to stop now,” the 28-year-old said.
Stump’s ideas manifest themselves in a big way – beautiful, custom-made wood furniture. Some of it is on display in his studio in the 700 block of 5th Street or in use at area businesses such as Coffee @ The Lofts on nearby Gallia Street. But much of his work is far, far away, in the homes of customers across the country who have found Stump Standards online and worked with the owner to create a unique, functional piece of art for their home.
“The furniture I make, you can have it in a log cabin or in a five-star hotel,” Stump said.
Stump’s goal as an amateur artist is simple: create beautiful, unique furniture that reflects the personal taste of each client. His focus is tables – dining, coffee, or something in between – but he also crafts countertops, benches, shelves and more. “With most of the clients I have, I get to combine their ideas and mine,” he said. “But sometimes I get a client who says ‘Do your own thing,’ and that’s very exciting.”
Those who commission a table from Stump have a choice of eight different woods – walnut is the artist’s favorite – and a dozen base styles. Each slab of wood is hand selected by Stump from the inventory at Graf Brothers Flooring, just across the river in South Shore, Ky., where Stump Standards got its start in 2013.
Since the wood is the main character in this production, it’s critical to consider every line, every grain, every nuance. The logs come from sustainable forests in the central and eastern United States, meaning when that tree was taken, another was planted in its place. If the customer wants a tree from the Tri-State, that’s possible, too.
“We embrace the fact that each tree has a different story to tell,” reads a line from the home page of www.stumpstandards.com. What some might see as an imperfection, Stump views as the wood’s uniqueness. If a slab has a crack, for example, Stump simply inserts steel or brass bowties to connect the two sections in an unusual way. Or, if the artist discovers gunshot pellets in the wood as he’s sanding it, that’s just information to give to the future owner, who may want to spin it into a tall tale to share with friends and family over the table’s inaugural meal.
Fashioning beautiful tables out of slabs of wood was not in the California native’s plan, even as he wrapped up his Master of Fine Arts from Marshall University in 2012. He’d been a graphic design major at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh before beginning his MFA program. Marshall classmates and his mentor, Professor and Sculptor Jonathan Cox, encouraged him to start working with wood because it was “something I could not control,” Stump said.
“I got into wood sculpture. I just knew what looked good,” he added. “But, even as I got close to graduation, I kept wondering how I was going to get a job doing this.”
It was right after he finished school – literally, like the day after his final grad school show – that he met his future friend and supporter Damon Graf at the Huntington, West Virginia, restaurant where he was waiting tables. Graf, a vice president at Graf Brothers, bought three of the wood art pieces in Stump’s Capstone show and quickly hired him to begin a new line of handcrafted table tops for the family business.
“At that point, I’d never made a table before. It felt like I was starting grad school all over again – trying to figure it out,” Stump said, adding that it probably took him at least six months to learn how NOT to make a table. “I studied the original way of making a table and then started to get more creative.”
The venture with Graf Brothers didn’t work out, but by then, Stump knew he had a knack for the craft and a mind full of new ideas he wanted to try. So, with Graf’s help, he located studio space in Portsmouth and worked out an arrangement for the lumber supply. He also regularly partners with other local businesses, including Rush Welding and Bentley’s Hardware in Portsmouth and Swift Manufacturing in Ironton, Ohio.
As a recent student himself, Stump is glad to help future artists. Every few months, he hosts an art showing for students from nearby Shawnee State University.
Stump has an assistant, Jacob Sparks, and a three-member “marketing” team consisting of Luna, Hatta and Nori, the young felines who showed up at the studio and decided they’d just live there. At least one of them is usually purring nearby as Stump works on his latest creation.
“People ask me, ‘Why Portsmouth?’ and I tell them we aren’t limited to Portsmouth. We make it and ship it from here, but we are an online store. My tables are in Hollywood, Texas, Colorado, New York.”
Stump Standards recently got its first international client, from Switzerland, but interestingly enough, has yet to make its first Portsmouth sale (which he defines as a local resident ordering after visiting the studio). Of course, Stump would welcome that. And maybe that client would be the one who ends up with the artist’s favorite piece.
“My favorite piece is still in my head. I’ll do it someday.”
Wood artist Wayne Stump is the owner of Stump Standards, LLC, with a studio located at 725 5th St. in Portsmouth. The online store, www.stumpstandards.com, includes portfolios of his residential and commercial work.
Pricing depends entirely on the product. Coffee tables, for example, start at about $1,200. To discuss a commission with the artist, call (304) 702-2425.