After a six-year apprenticeship in Vermont, Brian Brace was a certified master craftsman in search of his future. He found work in finish construction in Florida, but he didn’t enjoy working in such big shops. “I never got to see the finished work,” he says. “I was always handing off what I built to someone else to finish.”
After selling three of his early Arts & Crafts pieces in a gallery in a single night, he began to build more furniture, easing his way out of construction. In 2010, he relocated to Black Mountain, N.C. There, he caught the notice of Bruce Johnson, the founder and major-domo of the Arts & Crafts Conference at the Omni Grove Park Inn. When another artisan canceled at the last minute, Johnson invited Brace to join the show. Since then, Brace’s furniture-making business has thrived.
His signature piece is the “Arbor” Morris chair. The name comes from the figured trees that take the place of slats on the sides. “I wanted to design a Morris chair that’s both masculine and feminine, so that husband and wife both can say, ‘I love this chair.’ ”
Brace has built and sold dozens of “Arbor” chairs in a variety of woods . . . along with live-edge dining tables, side and armchairs, and many pieces in the Greene and Greene idiom. “I really enjoy building Greene and Greene designs because of the challenge. It has to be light, or it looks like Mission.
“My furniture has, I feel, doubled in quality in the past five years. I had this epiphany down in the shop one day, and things just clicked.”
He figured out how to make more jigs for certain cuts, which results not only in more finely crafted pieces, but also swifter production. Brace has also learned to trust his instincts. For example, he glanced at the arm of a chair one day and decided it didn’t look quite right. “I took 1 / 8" of an inch off, and it looks way better.”