TUPELO – A year and a half ago, Michael Gibson had what he considered to be a brilliant idea.
He and his bride, Andrea, would sell their home, move to his grandparents’ house and build a barn to live in while they invested their money in land they would one day build their forever home on.
And, Michael added, he was going to build the barn himself.
“I didn’t even have a hammer,” he said. “But I grew up on concrete in Tupelo and I had this idea to build this pole barn out of wood.”
Michael, 33, watched a lot of YouTube videos and he built that barn – they call it a barndominium – that he and Andrea and their 4-month-old, Waverly Mae, live in in Nettleton.
Along the way, he started doing small projects for the home – a coffee table here, a porch swing there. Then he began making gifts for family and friends.
“And then people started wanting to pay us,” he said.
So RAW Furniture was born.
“That name found us before we found it,” Michael said.
“We like to use natural things in their raw state,” Andrea said. “And we’re very raw when it comes to the business. We’re so green to this.”
When Michael’s handmade home furnishings took off, Andrea decided she was going to make soy candles.
“I couldn’t let him have all the fun,” said Andrea, 29. “But I’m not a creative person at all. So I look at the candles as scientific. It took lots of studying. I’m a by-the-rules kind of person.”
Michael, on the other hand, is the dreamer.
“‘What if’ is my No. 1 line,” he said. “I’m always a what-iffer. Andrea keeps me grounded.”
When RAW began, the couple both had full-time jobs. Andrea worked at Kay’s Kreations bridal shop – she quit work there when Waverly was born – and Michael is the sports director for Tupelo Parks and Recreation Department.
So to get their name out in the public, they started doing craft shows on the weekends. The first one was the Red Green Market in Corinth in October 2015.
“That’s one reason I started doing the candles,” Andrea said. “We needed little things, something for people to remember us by.”
The candles, which come in various sizes ranging from melts for a warmer to a small jar to a large pail, are all natural. Fall and winter scents included Fraser Fir, Blue Spruce and Caramelized Praline.
“I’m working on spring and summer scents now, like Amber Forest, Spa, and Vanilla Bean,” she said.
Michael makes other small items for sale, such as cutting boards and coasters in the shape of the state of Mississippi, cookbook holders, birdhouses, candlesticks and block letters.
“When I got a lathe, that opened up a whole new deal,” Michael said. “Now I’m able to do candlesticks and turn table legs. I want to get into welding next, which opens the door to outdoor things.”
“He’s open to everything,” Andrea said.
Every piece Michael makes is custom and every piece has a name.
“The first piece I build on the request of a customer takes the name of that family,” he said. “When I build it again for someone else, I get to go back and relive the memories of that original family.”
Hence, the Hodge Farm Table, the Herndon Kids Farm Table, Gaga Candlesticks and the Parks Sofa Table.
“I went dumpster-diving at Parks and Rec for wood for the sofa table, so that’s where that name comes from,” he said.
He mostly likes to use reclaimed wood, but if it’s not reclaimed, then it comes directly from a sawmill. His pieces are made using pine, walnut, cedar, oak, maple and birch.
“Sometimes people will call and want me to use a specific piece of wood from their property or that was in their family,” he said. “The wood for the Hodge table came from a tree lost in the Tupelo tornado.”
The Gibsons are mindful that while everything they make is decorative, almost all the pieces are also practical and useful – furniture, coasters, serving trays, candles – the kinds of things their grandparents would have made or used in their day.
“I always reflect back,” Michael said. “I have in my mindset ‘old.’ I tell Andrea all the time we’re two old souls.”