Chris Harris always wanted to be an artist. A student at Triton Regional High School, the Newbury native had his sights on Montserrat College of Art in Beverly. Then both his parents died, he said, and “I didn’t have the chance to do it.” He turned to construction and carpentry.
“My love was working with wood,” said Harris. A few years ago, he bought some reclaimed whiskey barrels and worked on them in his garage. “I did a few custom stools for a gentleman, and he fell in love with them,” Harris said. “From there, things just started building.”
Two years ago, his crafting of wine and whiskey barrels into everything from dog beds to restaurant tables became a full-time business, Hedgehog Designs, based at the Chestnut Innovation Center in Amesbury. He also has a retail store in his new hometown at 2 Water St. in Amesbury. We talked with Harris, 38, about his business.
Q. The name?
A . My family crest (Scottish and English) is full of hedgehogs.
Q. The barrels?
A. They are French white oak, which is different than American oak. There are a variety of places I get them; Boston, Maine, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. At any time, I have more than 250 barrels on hand.
A. Each piece is finished with a natural emulsion of carnauba oil and beeswax to enhance the natural grain of the barrel and protect the wood from becoming dry and brittle. We make every effort to preserve unique markings, original colors, and imprints, which make each piece unique. Our motto: Repurposing the ordinary into something extraordinary.
A. Anything from a cheese knife with wooden handle ($15) to custom wine racks for 47 bottles (no price available) to custom tiki bars and stools, dog beds, ($150 to $ 210), a set of two Adirondack chairs ($475 to $525 and a double-seater for $1,200), to bed headboards and footboards (no price).
Q. Your job?
A. I have so many plans in my head, and so much more to go. It’s what I wanted to do back then, but didn’t have a chance because of the situation. So now I am coming full circle and trying to make up for lost time.
Wendy Killeen can be reached at email@example.com.