North Carolina woodworker takes Best of Show award

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A pleasant diversion to the hustle and bustle of IWF is the Design Emphasis competition. This year’s contest featured 121 entries and 39 finalists, led by Best of Show winner Ben Grant of Haywood Community College in Clyde, N.C.

Ben Grant incorporated his interest of clock gears and mechanisms into this desk that won Best of Show in the 2016 Design Emphasis contest at IWF.

Ben Grant, the principal of Ben Grant Woodwork in Waynesville, N.C., impressed the judges with a writing desk that has wooden gears visible through the top. The gears turn when the drawer and pull-out writing surface are opened and closed.

2016 Design Emphasis results Accent Furniture Winner: Julian Harris, Haywood Community College Merit: Timothy McNamara, Seattle Central College Honorable Mention: Benjamin Zickmund, Herron School of Art and Design Commercial Winner: Kelly Romig, Appalachian State University Merit: Tommy Teav, Seattle Central College Honorable Mention: Romig Seating Winner: Zachary Manual, Kansas State University Merit: Jonathan Bingham, Western Piedmont Community College Honorable Mention: Amanda Housh, University of Idaho Case Goods Winner: Harris Merit: Brady Montgomery, Pittsburg State University Honorable Mention: Christian Franczyk, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design Design Creativity Winner: Kasia Sweeny, Appalachian State University Merit: Ben Grant, Haywood Community College Honorable Mention: Ian Anderson, Brigham Young University

“I was doing lots of end tables before and I wanted to do something bigger, so I made a desk,” Grant said on the show floor. “I looked at a lot of pictures of old clocks in designing it. I always thought the mechanics were interesting and aesthetically pleasing, so I wanted to add them somehow in this piece.”

Grant also won the second place or merit award in the design creativity category for a lounge chair featuring slats that resemble xylophone keys. He is currently converting his garage into a shop and plans to work for himself. He says the awards give him the confidence to make a living as a furniture maker.

“This year we had a couple of new schools who registered and did quite well in the competition,” IWF director of operations Liz Hosp says. “Overall, we saw a lot of variety. This time students seemed to push the envelope a little more with abstract work. Some of the designs were creative and more unexpected, like a live edge table that was designed to sway as part of the design concept. It seems the students are thinking outside the box a little more.

“The students chosen as finalists get a few free nights at the show so they can go to the award ceremony and stay a few days to get the chance to meet people at the show and talk about their projects. Many of them talked with judges and got tips on their work.”

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This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue.

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