A thick cloud of sawdust permeates the air in Mark Studdard’s carpentry workshop in Clinton, South Carolina, where he is planing a piece of white oak for a live-edge coffee table.
Wood shavings litter the floor of the one-story structure, which was originally built to house a wedding reception for his in-laws. Once dubbed “the chapel,” according to Mark’s wife, Kristen, the building is now a temple of creativity and the functional headquarters of the couple’s company, Makari Designs.
Giving in to his penchant for working with his hands, Mark took up pottery in college to the detriment of his studies in humanities. After he and Kristen married, they spent five years working in Korea, Turkey, and Iraq. In Iraq, armed with hand tools and YouTube videos, Mark taught himself the craft of woodworking. When the couple moved back to South Carolina in 2017, he turned his newfound hobby into a full-time job. They named their company Makari, after the town in Cameroon, West Africa, where Mark grew up.
Woodworking is a means to an end for the Studdards. Both were raised as missionary kids, who lived most of their formative years with their families overseas, and their upbringings instilled in them a passion for helping the underprivileged. “Having my own business gives me more flexibility and more time to travel to help people,” Mark reveals. Last year, he spent time in Ethiopia through a church program in order to help build furniture and displays for a village community center. Kristen does human-services and first-response counseling for disaster-relief workers when she’s not caring for the couple’s two young children and tending to the company’s marketing and sales, finance, and customer service. “I’m the business-end of things,” she says.
Mark prefers to work with local hardwoods such as white oak—his favorite—poplar, and walnut, and leans toward the clean, simple lines of Japanese-style furniture. Traditional joinery techniques set his work apart. He builds furniture without screws and nails, fitting the wood sections snugly together like pieces of a puzzle. This technique allows the wood to swell and shrink naturally over time, instead of warping or splitting against a metal nail or screw. “I thoroughly enjoy working on each piece,” shares Mark. “I’m not a production facility; I put a lot of effort into giving someone a very unique piece.”
For now, most of his work is custom, but eventually he hopes to have a portfolio of pieces from which customers can choose. If a customer asks for something he’s never made before, Mark spends hours researching how to do it. “I make it up as I go along,” the self-taught carpenter confesses with a laugh. “As I learn more, I add new styles, techniques, and finishes. I want my work to be functional, simple, and beautiful.” And it is. In crafting and selling quality woodwork, Mark and Kristen have hammered out a successful livelihood that allows them time for travel and humanitarian work, two of the things they love most.
Makari Designs. (864) 516-0682, makaridesigns.com