Making Furniture an Art Form
Writer Greg Granillo
Photography Loralei Lazurek and The Yamwood Foundry
Take a look around your home or business. What does your furniture say? Does it truly capture your style? Is it exactly the piece you want for the room where it lives? Does it have a story? And does that story simply consist of you entering your credit card number on a website or ordering from a catalog?
One North Scottsdale company has come up with a new way to buy furniture and other creations that are actually more works of art than home or business furnishings. And best of all, the customer is the inspiration.
“With every piece we design here, we try to find inspiration in the person or the company and what they stand for,” says Casey Frett, industrial designer at The Yamwood Foundry. “Everything is built to be passed down through generations.”
Yamwood’s philosophy is simple: to create a story for every piece they make. Casey’s favorite example of that philosophy in action came a few months ago when Yamwood was commissioned by Republic Services to create a conference room table—but not just any conference room table.
Republic Services is one of the nation’s leading providers of non-hazardous solid waste and recycling services. When it was time to create the table for their boardroom, they kept true to their brand of resourceful recycling.
“The client took us out to a ranch they own in Florence (Ariz.) and we found wood from old animal pens, metal and glass, and we reused it all to create the table,” Casey explains. “So not only is it unique and different because of all the recycled materials we incorporated, but there’s a history to it.”
Yamwood’s custom furniture history actually began with custom motorcycles. The company’s state-of-the-art, 40,000-square-foot facility near Hayden Road and Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd. was originally—and still is—the headquarters for Yamwood’s sister company, Spooky Fast Customs. When Yamwood moved in during February of this year, the building was already equipped with the most advanced fabrication technology to cut, form and finish materials of all kinds. With the demand for custom motorcycles waning, general manager Mark Schrecker came up with an idea.
“We already had all these talented designers and fabricators, so we started doing things like signage at Scottsdale National Golf Club, work benches for Parsons Xtreme Golf (PXG), custom furniture, display pieces and fixtures at Harley-Davidson,” says Mark. “Before we knew it, we had created about 15 pieces and realized that maybe there was a demand for the kind of things we do. That’s when we really got serious about it and went to Mr. Parsons and said, ‘Hey, we think there’s a niche here that isn’t being filled.’”
Yamwood Foundry is part of the YAM Worldwide family of companies, the brainchild of CEO Bob Parsons, best known as the founder of GoDaddy. The parent company includes brands such as Parsons Xtreme Golf (PXG), Scottsdale National Golf Club, Harley-Davidson of Scottsdale and more.
Soon after opening, Mark noticed that there were two types of people attracted to the types of creations Yamwood builds: people who have something in mind but couldn’t find it anywhere else; and those who want something that is uniquely theirs, incorporating their passions or favorite hobbies.
And that’s the big difference between Yamwood and other furniture makers.
“It all begins with the customer. They are involved from the beginning. They are a part of the whole thing. It doesn’t exist without their input,” says Mark.
“We invite clients to come in and sit down with us face-to-face—bring their ideas, sketches on napkins, photos from books and magazines and design something with us, become part of the team,” he adds.
Yamwood’s industrial designers then go to work creating multiple design options in the form of 3D drawings and renderings. Once clients see a design they like, the fabricators get to work cutting, painting, coating and custom building every part of their piece using only the finest woods and metals available. At any given time, clients can come into the Yamwood facility to watch their piece being built.
“Everything is done right here in Scottsdale, and everything is American-made,” said Mark.
The “Made in America” concept is near and dear to Mark’s heart. Before joining YAM Worldwide, he spent 25 years in the Marine Corps as a CH-46E helicopter pilot, compiling 4,000 flying hours, including 16 months in Iraq.
Mark has an educational background in engineering, and when he retired from the military in 2015 he was contacted by a friend who wanted to know if he would like to come to Arizona for a unique job opportunity. Parsons was looking for someone to manage several construction projects for his Scottsdale businesses.
“My wife was working as a principal at a great school back in Virginia, so when I heard about going to Arizona, I said no,” Mark recalls. “They called back about a week later, asked me to come out for a visit. I fell in love with the place—the lifestyle, the people, and the company.”
By July 2015, Mark and his wife were heading West permanently.
“Things move fast with Mr. Parsons, so before we knew it we were ready to go,” says Mark. “He always has the backs of fellow Marines and is big on hiring veterans, so that made a big difference in our decision,” he said.
A decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, Parsons created the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation, which has supported several veterans’ organizations, mainly the Semper Fi Fund.
So how do you make the decision to go from being a Marine colonel in charge of assignments for more than 20,000 Marine officers to leading a small team of 16 designers, fabricators and machinists?
“It comes down to knowing what you want to accomplish and, most importantly, surrounding yourself with great people,” says Mark.
Every Day is Different
To date, Yamwood has created pieces for mostly business office uses, from one-of-a-kind reception desks to oversized conference room tables complete with built-in planters and wiring for electric. But they still do quite a few residential pieces like large dining tables, bar carts and custom desks.
“Every single day is different. There are new projects all the time,” says Casey, an Arizona native who graduated from Arizona State University’s acclaimed industrial degree program. He moved to Wisconsin upon graduation and returned to Arizona six years later. “It made me appreciate home much more—the year-round weather, the scenery, the people. It’s a great place to live.”
The diversity of work allows Casey and fellow industrial designer Vernon Moles to flex their creative muscles and offer a nearly unlimited collection of designs, styles and finishes.
“The same customer can give the same input and we’ll end up presenting completely different styles and options for them,” says Casey. “The client’s style is our style. We have the capability to match anything they want, from clean and modern to more industrial.”
Anyone can visit the The Yamwood Foundry showroom at 15275 N. 83rd Place in Scottsdale, but general manager Mark is sure to point out that the pieces you see there and on their website are just for inspiration.
“I always tell people, ‘You can’t have that one.’ It can’t be perfect for you because it wasn’t built for you.” Mark says. “But tell me everything you like about it and we will make one that is uniquely different for you, and we won’t ever build the same thing for anyone else.”