By Christina Harper Herald Business Journal
EVERETT — It is a gift to the senses to step inside Handmade Elpis &Wood Furniture.
The scent of cedar, walnut, oak and maple floats through the air while the wood that was once dead has been brought back to life, rich with deep amber and browns, and fashioned into tables, desks, and benches.
Each one different. No two the same.
“We wanted to up cycle, recycle and reclaim,” said co-owner Blake Paine.
The wood used to make Elpis furniture items is salvaged from the back roads and small-scale mills of the Pacific Northwest and from towns including Portland, Ore., Bellingham and Oso.
“Wood finds us,” Paine said.
Paine, 44, and Matt Moses, 29, both of Marysville, began the business in 2011 working in Paine’s garage.
In September, the pair relocated to a shop at 3011 Grand Ave., Everett.
Each piece of Elpis furniture tells its own story, some pieces looking like a maps with natural crevices and holes, lovingly worked and cared for by the two men.
Paine and Moses met a few years back when a group of locals would get together at Don’s Restaurant in Marysville to talk about philosophy and theology.
Back at Paine’s house, people had begun to gather for weekly meals and get-togethers giving the home the moniker HOP or House of Paine.
Moses was invited to the house for a meal.
He continued to go back and met some of Paine’s friends.
“Over the course of five years we had a meal for anyone who wanted to come,” Paine said.
The events attracted young adults with a heavy presence of creativity and angst and at one point Moses shared with Paine his vision for a community center.
Perhaps it would called “Elpis Arts.” Elpis is the Greek word for hope.
“An intentional environment for people with artistic sensibilities,” Moses said.
As the young people began to get older, the gatherings took on a different feel, more like families. House of Paine whittled down. Moses and Paine lost touch for a few years.
Paine had worked in sales for Magnolia Hi-Fi for 20 years. He wasn’t happy and although he was grateful for work he felt there was something missing.
“I was antsy about my job,” he said.
Paine doesn’t do things in half measures. He had once wanted to experience what it was like to be a homeless child. He lived on the streets for 40 days and slept at the Gospel Mission.
So when he received a promotion at work but decided to walk away from his job, he did so with the blessing of his wife and took out his retirement. It was around this time that Paine reconnected with Moses, who had been making reclamation furniture.
Moses had put photos of his work on Craigslist just to see if people were interested in it.
They decided to start Handmade Elpis &Wood.
Their personal circumstances were different, Paine is married with seven children; Moses is not married and has no children.
But the two men still shared a goal of a business where they could incorporate beauty and art, and give back.
And they had a vision for their product.
“We wanted to make beautiful things out of discarded (items,)” Paine said.
Elpis grew fast even though the two don’t think of themselves as traditional woodworkers.
“We’re wood designers,” Moses said. “I did graphic design and photography and had that discipline.”
They started their business with $2,000 and a skill saw. It took six months for them to get their first paycheck.
Paine was also heavily involved with caring for his children. That and starting a business that took 40 to 60 hours a week of his time was a lot to handle.
Moses’ vision is to create a community in which other artists using all mediums will come together to create their work in the same space, jewelers, painters, any number of artisans.
While the process of making furniture from wood is not as easy as it looks, Paine and Moses understand the complexity of the wood they use.
It takes six to eight weeks to process orders that are sent as far at New York, Colorado and San Francisco. Prices start at $500.
From rooted tree to table or desk is a two- or three-year journey. Paine and Moses are particular about the wood they use.
An infrared moisture reader that senses to the core of the wood is used and wood is dried out which can take from one to three years.
The wood is sanded and opened up to breathe again.
The results are stunning and whichever piece is chosen the customer gets something for free: a conversation started.
“You can see it in a person when they say, ‘Oh wow!’” Paine said.
When working on a piece, Moses and Paine monitor the wood and it’s reaction during its journey from wood block to table, desk or bench, to see if they will use it.
“Wood has life,” Moses said. “It’s the will of the wood.”