Creating a business from scratch is hard enough as it is, but doing so while simultaneously teaching yourself a complex skill like woodworking? That kind of challenge would send anyone in search of a serious serenity fix. For furniture designer Chris Herbert, who crafts sleek side tables, minimalist kitchen islands, and sturdy, wood and steel meditation altars for his shop
“Yoga was a big part of what helped me get through the beginning stages of learning how to woodwork and launch a business,” he says. “When I first started my company, I was practicing about five times a week. I saw a tremendous improvement in my stress levels and how I was able to juggle things.”
Aside from having a powerful impact on his outlook, Chris’s yoga practice also provided a steady stream of early furniture requests for meditation altars, which have remained a mainstay of his flat-packed furniture business to this day.
Read on to learn more about this business-savvy builder, and find out how he stays inspired—then
How did you get started?
I was a finance major in college, and I’ve always been interested in starting a business. My grandfather was a toy designer for Mattel back in the ‘50s, and my dad is an engineer. I was a tinkerer as a kid, and a good problem solver.
I got into
Since then, I’ve gathered a ton of experience, tools, and knowledge. I’ve spent the past four years building, designing, and running my business. Woodworking definitely isn’t my background, so it’s a little bit of a steeper incline on the slope to success. It’s really been about trusting my instincts and working hard.
Do you remember the first thing you made?
The first big thing I made was a bar cart that I put together when I was in college, on the floor of a house I shared with three roommates. I was sawing, sanding, and doing everything right there in our living room. After I sold a couple pieces on Etsy, I realized that I needed a space to work, so I cleared out my parents’ garage and started gathering tools. Back then it probably took me 10 hours to produce one
How does one “pick up” welding? That seems difficult.
I took classes at a maker space. The first few things I welded were pretty terrible—it was a lot of practice and figuring things out and learning from good teachers.
How do you go about finding wood and raw materials?
I source my reclaimed wood from nonprofits in Baltimore. There’s this really cool one called
All of your furniture packs down flat. Will you tell us more about that?
When I started making
What made you decide to open a shop on Etsy?
I was told by my girlfriend at the time that it might be a good idea. I didn’t really know that much about Etsy when I started. I kind of just put up
What keeps you going when challenges come up? What’s your guiding light?
The rent’s due? No, it’s really just that I take on challenges as the chance for constant improvement. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times when I question what I’m doing. I work in a workshop in a random factory in Baltimore, making this
Speaking of ideas, how do you stay creative?
I think I’m the most creative when I’m surrounded by nature, or outdoors in general. You can’t create ideas, they come to you—so I don’t force anything, I just completely let it happen.
What’s the best part of what you do?
The best feeling is a new idea—that second when a new idea comes into your head, and you’re so excited about it, and reality hasn’t set in yet. You’re just so excited, and it doesn’t really make sense to anybody but you, but you see this thing so clearly in your mind. And you want to work for three weeks straight just to make this one thing happen.
Maybe it takes 20 of those moments to get one good idea, but it’s that feeling of hope for this new thing that nobody has ever seen before, that’s so different than all your previous thoughts. I think that’s my favorite thing.