Out in the Hill Country, near Gary Weeks and Company’s Wimberley furniture workshop, it’s hard to escape the enthusiasm and wide-eyed wonder people exhibit when speaking about Weeks’s craftsmanship and famous chairs. But it’s not until you actually sit in a Weeks chair that you finally understand what the fuss is all about.
The approach is as practical as it is artisanal. "We design a chair by working from anatomy to sculpture," Weeks says. To do this, a custom fitting booth was created at the workshop to capture and quantify the exact body contours and dimensions to best fit the greatest number of people. For his new line of dining chairs, Weeks brought in more than 50 people as test subjects, from a wide range of ages, heights and weights. The final result is a design Weeks refers to as "an ideal by consensus."
Other than its breathtaking visual beauty, the most prominent feature of Weeks’s new dining chairs is the lumbar support -- a gentle curve that nestles against the spine. Precision and care are given to form the curve of the chair’s seat and back, as well -- providing optimal support for the hips, upper back and shoulders. Once constructed, the chairs are repeatedly sanded and oiled to achieve an intoxicating silkiness. "We want the chair to be light -- both visually and functionally," says Weeks. "You shouldn’t have to get up from the table to find a comfortable chair," he says.
Weeks started making rocking chairs in 1992, and has continued to expand his line of furniture since then. In close company with the new tables and traditional high-back dining chairs are low-back chairs and two styles of barstools. The barstools were particularly difficult to create, requiring a return to the fitting booth and seven prototypes before Weeks was satisfied with the design.
While working at their craft, Weeks and his crew do their best to ensure that the operation is as eco-friendly and green as possible. In most cases, the wood comes from sustainably managed forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The workshop is certified by Austin Energy’s Commercial Green Building Program for meeting a high standard of sustainable design and construction. Plus, the shop’s wood shavings and dust are collected and composted (see Notable Edible story on Weeks’s chicken-coop-composting operation in Edible Austin Summer 2010).
Gary’s wife, Leslie, and adult son, Austin, are also involved in the business. "It’s something I’ve been doing forever," says Austin. "It’s just deeply ingrained in who I am. It’s great seeing that you actually brought something into this world."
Previously, the bulk of Weeks’s sales were rocking chairs. But as word of his new dining room furniture has spread over the last year, a roughly equal number of dining room tables and chairs have been sold. Weeks’s customers realize they’re investing in heirlooms when they purchase his tables and chairs.
"They’re not built in a trendy style," says Weeks. "They’re not limited to a certain setting or time period. They’re built to be around for a long, long, time."