Matthew Ogelby spent the first part of his career as a creative writer in the advertising industry before starting Ogelby Woodworks. Now, instead of making ads, he makes custom furniture and wooden goods.
We sat down with Matthew to talk all manner of topics from why he loves making furniture, his strangest customer request, new projects, and more. Get to know him in the interview below.
Learn more about Matthew at his website: Ogelby Woodworks, or our Guild journeyman member page.
Why do you love to make furniture?
I love the creative problem solving. At the end of the day, a table needs to function as a table, but what’s the most interesting and elegant way to solve that problem? This rings especially true when creating custom furniture for clients. I love satisfying the particular needs a client may have for a piece in a beautiful way.
What is the most unique furniture item you have crafted?
That’s tough to say. Possibly this coffee table I created last year? It came out beautifully well and the construction incorporated a few techniques that I really enjoyed executing.
What is challenging about being a furniture maker?
Patience and perspective. Managing the day-to-day aspects of a small custom furniture business takes patience to build pieces with integrity and quality, but also long-term perspective to plan ahead and ensure your business is successful.
Where have you failed and what did you learn?
Oh, every day in the shop is a learning experience!
What is the most bizarre request you have received?
I can’t say I’ve received any requests that were outlandishly bizarre. However, a couple of years ago I created three wall-mount trophy displays to commemorate a client and his friends’ Spartan Race achievements.
What is your advice to customers?
Handmade quality certainly doesn’t begin or end with furniture. It can take a little work, but seeking out local artisans (jewelry makers, leathersmiths, metalsmiths, painters, potters, etc) as opposed to buying online out of convenience will surely be rewarding.
Is your family involved in the business? If so, how?
Ha, no (not yet anyway). My partner Monica is a busy health care professional and our kids George (5 years old) and Greta (2.5 years old) are mostly interested in building with Legos. Although, our dog, Frank, is a steadfast shop companion.
Are you about to embark on any interesting new projects?
I have been working on a live-edge dining table that has me pretty enthralled. The top is made out of flame birch and it’s just beautiful. My ethos in furniture making has always been, “stay out of the way.” Wood is an incredibly beautiful and vibrant material and my number one goal has always been to honor that and let it shine through. Hence, stay out of the way.
What gets you excited to go into the shop every day?
Honestly, I feel pretty lucky just to be a furniture maker. This is something of a second career for me. Previously, I spent 10 years or so as a creative writer in the advertising industry. I enjoyed it, but there was something missing from my professional fulfillment. Making furniture has really satisfied all of that in a big way. So, even now, it can feel a bit like a dream come true.
If you weren’t a furniture maker, what would you be?
Probably still making ads for snack foods as a creative writer.
What do you like about being a Guild member?
The Guild has really blown me away. They are the kindest, most generous group of industry professionals I’ve known. Each of them are ever ready to share their time, experience, and knowledge. I’ve benefited from their influence greatly.