Meet Handcrafted America’s Artisan Eric McKenna, Eric McKenna Designs

Eric McKenna, Eric McKenna Designs

As a teenager in Lone Jack, MO, Eric McKenna would help his step-dad with woodworking, by catching the boards coming off the back end of the table saw, and stacking them, among other menial tasks. Though he was bored, he didn’t realize a seed had been planted, one that would eventually grow into a passion for the craft.

Fresh out of the University of Central Missouri with a degree in Construction Management in 2003, Eric got a job in Atlanta in civil and mechanical construction. For the next 12 years he worked 50- to 60-hour weeks, and in the evenings, on weekends and in what spare time he had, he started designing and building fine furniture. At one point, he had to make a choice: continue in a stressful job that was becoming less and less rewarding, or take a chance on work that fed his creativity, and fueled his passion. It was not a decision to take lightly. He would be giving up a steady job and growing career. The choice he made would determine the course of his life.

With his wife’s support and his friends’ encouragement, he took the plunge. Today, his passion is his profession, as he creates stunning, quality pieces of furniture—from tables to chairs to light pendants, and the innovative infinity bookshelf featured on Handcrafted America.

Meet Eric…

What drew you to your chosen craft?

There are a lot of things…. the indescribable sense of satisfaction in creating a beautiful object with purpose, built to last, built to be used and admired. It’s also the material itself, I always circle back to the material. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that wood was at one point a living plant and incredibly shrinking to think of the vast unique physical characteristics like color, bendability, hardness, etc. Wood is the best teacher of patience in my life experiences, but has never said a word.

What do you enjoy most about your craft?

I enjoy the creative process and learning about furniture making. I continue to see myself as very much a student, but I strive to push my own limits and that keeps this so fun and fresh. I also enjoy the physical work of furniture making and cutting trees into lumber. I need that balance.  

Why is it important for people to make things with their own hands?

I can’t say that it is to all people. I believe we all have a desire for expression and creativity in one area or another, because we are the result of an expression of creativity.

In what ways are handmade goods better than those that are mass produced?

They may not always be better, some objects actually are better when made from a cutting edge material on a CNC machine. When I think better I feel obligated to make a choice between what boils down to price and quality. It really boils down to what a person values and where handmade goods excel is that each piece has a story and a connection between people who value the same thing.

What does the future hold for your type of work?

I most certainly want to keep pushing the designs and efficiency of my work to be a sustainable business.  


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