When Gary Weeks begins works on one of his hand-crafted rocking chairs, he sees himself as creating, not just a piece of furniture, but an individual work of art that the new owner will cherish. “We take this tremendous resource, wood, which is a gift, and make it into something particularly meaningful to people,” he says, running his hand along the satiny finish of a new chair. “People keep rocking chairs and they develop a history. They’re worthy of our time and investment.”
A former law student turned homebuilder turned craftsman, Weeks designed his Weeks Rocker seven years ago in his workshop on an old ranch near Wimberley.
Using a self-built contraption that allowed him to measure people’s posture and the angle of their body while sitting, he designed a rocking chair that combines comfort and beauty.
Each Weeks Rocker is designed to show off the natural beauty of the wood. Weeks spends a lot of time sorting through the cherry, walnut, white oak, and other hardwood boards stacked in the shade of a spreading live oak behind his shop, finding the perfect wood for each chair. The seats alone use seven boards with carefully matched grain patterns. “It’s like the chair is a vehicle for displaying the grain,” Weeks says. “Every one is individual.”
While most businesses are moving forward into the twenty-first century with an emphasis on high-tech and computer automation, Weeks has chosen a business firmly seated in centuries-old craftsmanship. “A craft business flies right in the face of every trend,” he admits. “Craftsmanship is a labor of love and there has to be a lot of it [labor]. It’s like going upstream against the conventional way of doing things. Craftsmanship means a high labor cost. We’re selling the finest woods and the application of the finest skills. That absolutely flies in the face of everything in the market today.”
People apparently still appreciate a hand-crafted product, as evidence by the growth of the Weeks’ business in the last few years. Many private individuals, such as former Governor Ann Richard’s, own Weeks Rockers. And public institutions from hospitals to libraries which seem to beckon people to sit down and relax a while. Austin’s Renaissance Womenis centers ordered 20 rockers for use in their birthing rooms and other patient care spaces.
Weeks also makes dining tables and chairs with the same sleek lines as the Weeks Rocker. About forty hours of labor goes into each chair, choosing and shaping the wood, sanding the pieces, then finishing the chairs with multiple coats of hand-rubbed finish. Weeks finds the work both physically and spiritually satisfying. “A lot of the reward of the business has been that the people who buy the chairs are elated,” he says. “And every day I get to see something happen. It’s not on a screen and it’s not on paper and it’s not far away.