The Work of Masters

Hamrick Woodwright
Hamrick Woodwright

Hamrick Woodwright  is a father/son wood working team who bring “tradition and innovation” together.  Using the finest materials available, they strive to create “one of a kind, works of art” that will last lifetimes.  Handling wood in miraculous ways allows for each piece to come alive; whether it be in the form of “sculptured art, custom furniture, awards, musical instruments or more,” the Hamrick’s possess the knowledge and craft required to “shape [each] piece to [its] true potential.”

Eddie Hamrick was born in Newton, NC in 1954.  Having started woodworking when he was six years old, Hamrick worked side-by-side with his father in the shop behind their home until his father died suddenly at age of 42. “”I went to live with a friend in Williamsburg, VA,”” says Hamrick, ““where the headmaster of the Hay Woodworking Shop recognized my carving ability and put me to work carving posts and parts of fine 17th and 18th century furniture.”” Despite a childhood “plagued by hardship and poverty,” Hamrick returned to NC and with the support of his community, he was encouraged to apply for the first Emerging Artist Grant through the Durham Arts Council, which he won!

Eddie Hamrick
Eddie Hamrick

With his artwork now funded by the grant, Hamrick’’s talent as a craftsman became more visible, allowing him to enter state and national shows.  His confidence grew so much that he entered the “National Crafts Show at Renwick Gallery of the American Art through the Smithsonian Institute.” It is here, after winning an award that his life changed.  Hamrick was suddenly invited to lecture at colleges and universities, asked to appear on public television; he taught courses all over the country, and was sought out by “country and bluegrass greats” to handcraft musical instruments. Hamrick was given the title of “official craftsman of North Carolina,” and currently serves as ambassador in the preservation of North Carolina’s woodworking heritage.

His son, James has been a lifelong artist who was born in Hickory, NC and began working with wood as a toddler along side his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.  “My greatest joy,” he says “is taking nothing but a cut tree and materializing imagination. With a few blades, screws, glue, a little know how and a great deal of learned patience, I can create anything.” Living in Hickory, James was able to acquire woodworking experience in the cabinet industry, but his patience and ability to master his craft was predominantly due to the lessons his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather taught him. His determination and willingness to learn the craft has made him the artist he is today.

Eddie and James Hamrick
Eddie and James Hamrick

Over the years there have been many lessons learned, but “patience and attention-to-detail” are characteristics a woodworker must have in order to succeed. “Woodworking keeps growing and evolving, and you have to keep up with advances in design, technology, and finishing techniques as new chemicals are developed.” “To quote Hippocrates,”” says James, “”life’’s so short, the craft so long to learn;” consequently, the learning process never ceases.”

A Hamrick work in progress
A Hamrick work in progress

With knowledge of 18th century hand tools to common heavy woodworking equipment, such as chain saws, table saws, band saws, lathes, drill presses, planers, and jointers, the Hamricks use anything “similar  to what can be found in Norm’s studio on the New Yankee Workshop.  There’’s a tool for every job.” In order to specialize, one must know how to carve, how to wood-turn bowls, create fine art pieces, design and construct furniture, and do all types of restoration work. But the most challenging aspect of woodworking according to Eddie and his son is “bringing a client’s dream to reality right before their eyes. Woodworking is easy, communicating through wood is difficult.”

A Hamrick work in progress
A Hamrick work in progress

Although Eddie’’s childhood was hard and filled with sorrow, his life was truly blessed. His is a “rags to riches” story filled with challenges, successes, familial love, and a God-given gift he continues to pass on to his son, James. As they say in the South, Eddie and James Hamrick do North Carolina proud. Some of their notable pieces can be found from the White House to the State Capital, from Museums in NC to the Presidential Library of George H. W. Bush at Texas A&M,  and even in the collections of the Smithsonian. For further information on Eddie and James and to see more of their work visit www.hamrickwoodwright.com.