Called "a first-rate artist" by The New York Times and creator of "the furniture of dreams" by The Designer, George Berry has also received glowing reviews in The Atlanta Journal, Atlanta Magazine, Southern Homes, Craft Horizons, Modern Style and Fine Woodworking Magazine. World famous architect Richard Meier said Berry designed and built "the handsomest cabinets I have ever seen."
"S" shaped coffee table base
White and Gold Home Entertainment Center
Some of Woodguy's recent jobs in Atlanta include:
In addition to his firm's commercial work, George Berry's one-of-a-kind furniture has won many national awards including "Best in Show" at New York City's Lincoln Center Festival of the Arts. His first antique conservation was shown at the High Museum in Atlanta 1974, and s-shaped coffee table pictured above was displayed in the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, in New York City. In 1990 he was selected by the American Craft Council to be one of 15 furniture makers to represent the U.S. at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.
Along with his commercial projects he has also served as a millwork consultant to IBM and the Federal Court of Appeals and has been qualified as an expert witness in Fulton Superior Court. He has been appointed an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Art at Kennesaw State University. He has taught "Designing Furniture" at Savannah College of Art and Design. George also teaches how to specify cabinets, wooden furniture, and architectural millwork to interior designers as part of their continuing education for professional requirements.
George Berry received a Fine Arts degree in Interior Design from Georgia State University in 1975, and then a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Woodworking and Furniture Design from the prestigious Rochester Institute of Technology in 1979. He returned to Atlanta and opened a shop equipped to handle all phases of furniture fabrication and millwork; from marble, glass or fancy veneer tops to stainless steel or ball and claw feet. He employs highly-skilled craftsmen who take great pride in their work.
For private lessons or commissions, call Mr. Berry at (404)369-6420.
Wolf Camera Headquarters in Atlanta:
Second Floor Railing
Labor of Love: Meet Master Craftsman George Berry, by Parker Snyder
This article was published in Points North magazine, August 2005
George Berry answers a phone call early in the morning. The distressed voice on the end of the line tells Berry that his rocking chair has a broken leg, and his grandchildren won't be able to climb on "Papa's chair" when they come over for the weekend. Berry spends several minutes talking with the man before inviting him to his furniture studio on the outskirts of Grant Park in Downtown Atlanta.
The Atlanta master craftsman, who has spent his life designing one-of-a-kind wood furniture, is adept with one of the most important challenges of running a successful business: he knows how to make time for people. "Got to be able to climb on Papa's chair," he said after hanging up the phone and before going back to work on his current project for an entertainment lawyer in Buckhead.
The lawyer is looking over a record contract for Berry's 16-year-old son who produced his first music album at age 15. Helping his son navigate the foreign world of production rights and sales royalties, Berry is building a letter desk out of cherry wood in exchange for legal advice. He finishes the top of the desk by smoothing the surface with a belt sander and pauses between passes to reflect on his life's work.
"Rather than saving to buy a cheap set, more and more people are buying custom-built furniture they can display proudly in their office or pass along to their children," Berry said. In support of his claim, and Inman Park restaurant owner is coming by later in the day to pick up tabletops he tried unsuccessfully to have matched before hiring Berry to do the job right. An assortment of burgundy five-pointed polygons lay wrapped in clear plastic by the door to the studio.
"My clients are restaurant owners and legal professionals, housewives and musicians, but every one of them has a distinct taste for the hand-built craft."
A Man in the Making
When the grandfather arrived with the broken chair, Berry brushed the sawdust off his leather shop apron and greeted him. After one quick look at the chair, he told the man he could fix it right away. Within an hour, the chair's broken leg had been mended, and Berry was telling the man his story.
"As a young man, I sailed through the Caribbean with a shoulder bag and a handsaw until I found a place of my own. Then I built a bed and a few chairs from what I could find locally." Berry described, with no lack of detail, that particular year he spent travelling --- a year he seems to draw upon for inspiration. The man shook hands with Berry and with the rocking chair at rest in the back of his pick-up truck, he rolled down the window to muse with the woodworker a final time. "Hey George, what's it take to build furniture for a living?" "Let me borrow a dollar and I'll tell you," Berry answered.
Berry, the consummate joker, is no stranger to hard work. The Atlanta native learned his craft as a young army recruit in the 1960s. Honored as "The Soldier of the Southeast," he's seen posing between two proud parents in a yellowed newspaper clipping that is usually hidden between the pages of a college textbook. It is his reminder that the army helped him to get where he is today by aiding in his college education.
After his service in the military, Berry enrolled at Auburn University as a math major, but at the last minute, he added an art course. He was the only one in the class to get and "A" and enjoyed the class so much that when he put pen to paper and made a list of all the probable professions --- enumerating pros and cons --- becoming a furniture designer won out.
He enrolled at Georgia State and studied under department head Tim Bookout, whom Berry says greatly influenced his design style. Berry received his undergraduate degree in interior design and a master's degree in woodworking and furniture design from the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. He returned to Georgia to open the George Berry Furniture Studio and five years ago, relocated his shop to its current location on Gaskill Street. To complete his commissioned pieces, he keeps the doors of his studio open six days a week.
Berry reminisced about the challenges he's faced over the past 25 years as he secures the top surface of the desk to the part he calls the carcass. "I chose woodworking because it's a job from which I never want to retire," he said as he ran a hand through his faded gray hair. Emphasizing the sweet satisfaction he gets from producing distinct furniture, he added, "It's not always been easy, but it's always been worth it."
his studio is home to a number of custom pieces, including a $12,000 armoire, built from vacuum-formed Brazilian rosewood, a handsome work that won the prestigious Lincoln Center Arts Festival Award for "Best of Show." A reporter for The New York Times saw the piece and described Berry as a "first-rate artist."
On display is a pair of intricately carved plant stands on narrow "flame feet" that seem to defy gravity. Berry runs his hand along a hand-carved, award-winning S-shaped coffee table made from black walnut that boasts shades of murky caramel and dark chocolate; a piece of furniture that makes the mouth water. "I enjoy building furniture from bonded plywood, because it can be both strong and beautiful," he said.
Berry's passion for the art extends to restoring antiques, most recently a Shaker cabinet dating back to the late 1700s. "When the cabinet was built, it was done by hand without the aid of power tools, before modern solvents were invented. The hinges were formed in a fire, and the wood was sealed with a wax from honeybees and the oils from cotton seeds." An interior design professor at the Art Institute of Atlanta hired Berry to restore his prized Shaker furniture because of Berry's knowledge of Shaker finishes. When Berry finishes the cabinet it will look timeworn and inviting, with a low luster and warm hues.
"I get asked once in a while to design a piece of furniture and use a less expensive finish, like a plastic laminate. But when I show someon a piece of furniture with a custom finish, their eyes light up. The grain. The wood color. The way it feels. You only have to show them once," Berry said.
Designing the Details
Berry charges $150 for a site visit to observe the space firsthand. Then he returns to his shop to "design up the piece," which he describes as a synthesis of his client's tastes and his own inspiration. The $750 design fee he charges is deducted, provided the client has Berry build the intended piece.
Berry's personal taste for furniture is to design with smooth flowing lines and to make the piece look soft to the touch, as well as to the eyes. Over the years, he has helped quite a few clients find the perfect interior finish to their foyer or bedroom.
Designing and building furniture is an arduous profession that requires considerable endurance. Despite the profession's daily demands, Berry's youthful energy and sense of humor have not faded. Perhaps that's because he spends a half-hour every day in quiet reflection after being taught the ancient art of Chinese meditation nearly two decades ago.
"I haven't missed a day. Even when I travel, I find the time." It's in those moments that Berry finds his personal inspiration and regains his strength, away from the clutter and noise of a busy woodworking shop.
Into the Future
Berry does not hesitate when he's asked what's ahead. "I want to teach furniture design to young people," he states, optimistic about an art form he believes is dying out, particularly in the Southeast. Berry wants to help save the craft and its associated traditions by operating a woodworking school. His current studio has the space; he needs only the necessary permits and accreditation.
"I'm waiting until my son goes to college before investing in the school. It's more important to be a parent than a full-time teacher right now, but the school's only a few years away," he admitted. As part of his commitment to the community, both as a business owner and an Atlanta resident, Berry will provide financial assistance to students in need.
"I remember when I was in the army and had no idea where the money for college would come from, and it did and it wasn't my own. Anyone that wants to work in wood will be welcome." Until then, students can sign up for Berry's quarterly Furniture Design class at the Atlanta College of Art or see him in one of a series of videos he's produced on woodworking available at www.woodguy.com.
Berry was sweeping his shop when the Inman Park restaurant owner stopped by at the end of the day. The owner plans to bring a truck later in the week to collect his tabletops in time for the weekend crowd. "I was in the area," he said to Berry who smiled as he leaned on his shop broom, "and I just stopped by to say hello."
Learn more about George's School of Woodworking and Furniture Design here.
Welcome to the Woodguy video series. $25.00 with free shipping and handling for over 2 hours of fact-filled woodworking instruction is the best video value on the web. These DVDs are designed to be a craftsman's video reference book, to be watched over and over again. They will become an "information tool" for your shop.
If you are not happy with your DVDs just return them uncopied within 30 days for a complete refund. We know that you will love them.
George Berry, "The Woodguy," has created a video series that demonstrates hundreds of tricks and techniques that he has used in his 43 years as a self-employed cabinetmaker. "It took me over four decades and two degrees to learn these insider craftsman tips I share in "The Woodguy" series, said Mr. Berry, the recipient of numerous awards for furniture making and design. "My viewers will be getting many of the best, little-known secrets, shortcuts and techniques of the furniture maker's craft, some of which I have created, while others have been culled from the experiences of history's finest cabinetmakers."
Mr. Berry is also an authority on the quality and properties of different woods and the history of woodworking and furniture making tools. These DVDs include several unique tricks, including how to make hairline miter picture and circular mirror frames without clamps. Other installments of Woodguy will feature tips on diverse woodworking tricks, including clamping, how to take the drudgery out of sanding, how to bend plywood, the secret for cutting true 45-degree miters every time without fail, a trick for cutting circles on the tablesaw, an easy way to determine and cut compound miters for a pyramid, a long-forgotten method for making a wooden ball without a lathe, the "old timer's" way of copying molding, the trick for making lap, mortice and tennon, box and dovetail joints with a tablesaw, the secret for achieving high tolerance without measuring, and many others. Woodguy will also feature money-saving tips and creative marketing ideas for woodworkers.
Most Woodguy DVDs are divided into five segments. In the exotic wood segment, the Woodguy discusses rare, imported wood, where it comes from, its appearance and workability, cost and uses, he also shows and discusses several samples, both unfinished and finished. Each DVD also includes the "Jargon Corner," where The Woodguy defines a word from the wood craftsman's lexicon. In the next segment, he answers the mail and questions from viewers. Every DVD has a "Save Your Money" section, which includes many money-saving tricks and tips, factory discounts and free samples (for many woodworkers, this section alone can save more than the price of the DVDs).
In the features section, the Woodguy reveals tricks of the trade for a particular area of woodworking. Using humor and anecdotes, the Woodguy reveals many little known and long-forgotten tricks, plus the latest innovations that will make your work easier, faster and better.
Gallery of Decades of Work by George Berry
Historic Architectural Millwork by George Berry