In 1998 I was working at a small restoration shop in southeastern Michigan. The work coming into the shop was not very inspiring. It was work, which is good; I gave each piece my best effort, however humble its origin. One day while working at my bench, a man walked into the shop and introduced himself to the proprietor as Jeff Weatherford. It turned out that he had recently returned to Michigan from Texas, where he ran a business that restored furniture. He had opened a similar practice in a nearby town and was familiarizing himself with other shops where his services might be of use. After he had given his business card to the owner, he noticed me working in an adjacent room and came over to introduce himself and to take a look at the project that I had under treatment. We began to speak and in a very short time, I knew I had met someone just as invested as I was in furniture and architecture and every facet of their history. It was less than a few days when I gave notice to my employer and jumped ship, even though I more than doubled my drive time.
The work at Weatherford Design was interesting and instructive, and I was able to improve my technique with the jobs that Jeff brought into the shop. I remember it as a good experience that made a lasting impact on my life and work.
Time passed and, in a few years, I had the opportunity to open my own shop. A couple of more years passed and I quite unexpectedly had a chance to fulfill an ambition and relocate to the east. I eventually discovered that the east coast was not for me, so I returned to the mid-west and later, after more than a decade, Jeff and I became reacquainted. It turned out that in the intervening years Jeff had acquitted himself admirably in every aspect of his life, fulfilling the definition of success. Jeff had completed the Historic Preservation Program at Eastern Michigan University, and then went on to teach in that program, all while growing his own Historic Preservation consultancy and building a great studio in which to house his operations.
Even though we live a few hundred miles apart, we have recently returned to collaborating on projects. We are both older and wiser, yet still share an insatiable curiosity about the history of our chosen field. A fringe benefit of this is spending a few hours leafing through Jeff’s impressive collection of books on furniture and architecture. I encourage you to visit Preservation By Design’s website and take a look at the substantive work that has come to fruition under Jeff’s hand, in both education and craftsmanship.