A CustomMade Connection leads to the Making of an Heirloom
Bill Neville is a craftsman on CustomMade and the man behind Caseworks in Chapel Hill, NC. He has been a woodworker for 30 years and is most certainly a master of his craft. Bill has a Fine Arts degree and an eye for the aesthetic which he exhibits beautifully in each and every piece of furniture he creates. He likes to say he makes ‘sexy’ furniture and describes the mission of his design/build business thus: “It is my intention to be recognized for a unique perspective in design and for lasting qualities of materials and workmanship.”
In December 2010, Bill was contacted by Jolie from California. Jolie is a self-proclaimed internet junkie. She uses the web to help her make decisions and for recommendations on interior design options and ideas. She wanted a new dining-room table. I asked Jolie why she didn’t buy her table locally. She replied that she had a very specific style in mind and to buy exactly what she wanted from a store would actually cost too much. She wanted to find someone who could help her make her vision a reality. Using the internet to guide her, she found CustomMade.com. She loved the site and what it was doing to bring craftsmen and -women and their art to consumers. She also loved the idea of supporting “homegrown artisanship.” But she especially liked the fact that she could make a personal connection with an artist.
After spending some time on CustomMade.com, she came across Bill Neville’s profile Caseworks. Jolie liked what she saw. She puts a lot of trust in her instincts, and pretty quickly decided she would give him a call. After their initial conversation, Jolie felt Bill understood her design direction. He listened to what she wanted and seemed to grasp her ideas of both function and style. She also felt added confidence contracting with Bill because he was affiliated with CustomMade.
Jolie wanted a 10 ft. round dining table in the Art Nouveau style and Bill sent his first concept drawing shortly after their initial conversation. But something wasn’t quite right. After further conversations and a deeper understanding of Jolie’s love of Art Nouveau, he scrapped the first drawing and tried again. Having a fine arts background, Bill was familiar with the work of Louis Majorelle and shared his knowledge and inspiration with Jolie. With Marjorelle as his influence, he created a second concept drawing for Jolie and she fell in love with it. Jolie expressed to me that at this stage,”I felt Bill understood my vision completely. He listened without trying to influence me. He researched Art Nouveau designers and demonstrated a thorough understanding of exactly what I was looking for.” After several months of emails and phone conversations and two concept drawings, Bill and Jolie came to an agreement on design and price, and the initial deposit was made.
In May 2011, Bill began work on Jolie’s table and completed the project on schedule in August.
He immediately began working on chairs. At this point he was only commissioned for the table, but his research of Art Nouveau design led him to artisan Hector Guimard whose stylistic chairs would complement Jolie’s new table beautifully. He shared Guimard’s chair designs with Jolie and she was so intrigued with the design, she commissioned Bill to make a dozen!
Early October came, and the table and chairs were scheduled for delivery. But how do you deliver a 10 ft round dining table with four extension leaves and 12 chairs to a client who lives 3000 miles away? Jolie knew shipping was going to be costly and Bill wanted her new one-of-a-kind heirloom shipped safely. After weighing various options of freight and courier, for Bill, only one answer made sense. He rented a truck and driver, packed the table and chairs himself (with help from trusted friends) and flew out to California to meet the driver at Jolie’s home. He unloaded the truck, watched it being carried into her home (with Jolie photographing the entire process) and personally set up her new dining set right before her eyes.
Jolie was completely and utterly blown away. How could something so personally meaningful have been created through an online service? Yet, it was perfect: Bill had captured her vision perfectly. Jolie felt proud, like she had been a part of the creation of a genuine work of art. “Being involved in the making of the piece made me feel like I did that, I made that happen. I was invested in the piece.” She said that she felt like this was her small contribution to keeping the style and design of Art Nouveau alive. She has many more ideas to come, and will be back on CustomMade.com in the near future!