Why would anyone quit his or her job making six figures a year? If you ask Doc Wright, he'll say to make some of the greatest slab tables and desks Dallas has ever seen.
“This isn’t normal,” Doc Wright says, turning to look at a pile of sawdust and grey wood sitting out in the sun. “What we’re doing just isn’t normal.”
Wright is a graduate of Texas Tech and used to work as an oil geologist. He had money, a nice house and two chubby dogs — in other words, stability. But he grew bored. He found himself exploring woodworking in his backyard and garage, something he previously didn’t have much experience in.
He awoke a creative force inside of him.
Wright took a risk. A big one. After starting to make furniture at his house, he started a furniture company, The Wright Edge, and began crafting in his free time. He is the only one in Texas sourcing, drying, cutting and making slab furniture from scratch.
There was demand in Dallas for what Wright was doing. The day after his first bid, for five large conference tables, was accepted, he quit his job.
Wright is an imposing man. He's barrel chested with biceps like coiled rope and a proud smile that's partially obscured by his long beard. He's like Paul Bunyan but without the plaid.
He fills a large travel mug with Diet Coke and screws the top on. We asked if he normally drinks the volume of soda he just poured. “Well, no. I was just out of Diet Dr Pepper," he says.
A man in his line of work probably needs that much caffeine. He piles into his lifted truck with his drink, and we follow him to his property in Red Oak, where he makes most of his furniture.
A giant slice cutter sits on the grassy property underneath an awning. It's where the raw wood is cut into the slabs that will later be dried, cleaned up, mounted and shined into functional pieces of art. We stand in an old shipping container, which will soon become a kiln used for drying even more wood.
A sign hangs in the back with The Wright Edge's slogan, “Reveal your grain.” It’s an apt phrase. The wood Wright gets is all native to Texas and is usually already dead or dying by the time it arrives.
When it's first sliced, it’s slightly grey — not the prettiest thing in the world. But Wright hopes to cultivate an appreciation in his customers for imperfections. The little knots and chips that normal furniture makers would toss as scrap are things of beauty to him.
He showed us a wide table that had just received a coat of varnish in his workshop, and the grain was so deep it was like looking into a reflecting pool. It wasn’t uniform, but it gave the fingerprint of the tree it came from. It sat on welded-steel legs that looked like they could have withstood the weight of two sumo wrestlers.
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“Everything we do is custom," Wright says. “Sometimes people don’t know what they want.”
Wright invites his clients to participate in the design process. They get to choose exactly what they want, from size and shape to the metal legs and coating. This can be overwhelming to some, but Wright thinks the result is worth it.
Because each product is unique to the client, there are no fixed prices. Wright breaks down each step of the process in his invoices, so his clients see exactly what they're paying for.
“It means that by the time we’re done, you have a table that’s custom to you," Wright says.