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Photo by: Sarah Wilson - From an ever-expanding warehouse in Winter Park, Hog Eat Hog designers and craftsmen dedicate themselves to creating custom furniture pieces that respect the integrity of the locally-sourced wood they work with.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 4 years ago

Hog Eat Hog designs with the grain

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Custom woodwork in W.P.
by: Brittni Larson

From beginning to end, there’s a man, not a machine, involved in the making of a piece of furniture from design studio Hog Eat Hog in Winter Park. The wood used is the result of a day spent at a lumberyard in Oviedo, each piece hand-picked for its quality, strength and interesting grain character.

Sure, saws buzz with electricity to slice the wood – even the Amish use some sort of power source, designer and owner Blair Sligar jokes – but hands guide the precise cuts. Some items even get the attention of painstaking hand-staining techniques.

While factories pump out machine-made tables by the dozen, a coffee table created by the artisans at Hog Eat Hog (HEH) takes 25 hands-on hours, not including the trip to pick out the materials.

“It’s functional, it’s beautiful, it’s truly handcrafted, like I watch it get made by hand by artisans … there is no mechanized process to it,” said Brett Watson, business manager for HEH. “To see that all this stuff is literally made by hand and is literally sourced from local products is a beautiful thing.”

Hog Eat Hog is a custom furniture design studio started by Winter Park resident Blair Sligar. Sligar describes his design aesthetic as Southern and comfortable with mid-century modern sensibilities. What you’ll see if you enter the shop, are simple designs. Tables have modern, slim, clean-lined legs, but the tops have incredibly unique wood grains that bring the design back to the warm, inviting feel Sligar wants his furniture to have. Some even have a shape that comes from the natural curve of the lumber with interesting notches, and cracks are embraced as part of the wood’s character.

“It’s not pretentious,” Sligar said.

The studio has grown since the days Sligar worked out of the back of his old Honda Accord, always hoping for the next time he could ditch the creatively frustrating but educating restoration carpentry work he was doing and take on a custom furniture building job. Five years ago marks the last carpentry job he had, and in the last two years his business has grown from just him to seven employees. He’s been a featured artisan at the Orlando West Elm store, and it’s a four- to six- week wait for a furniture piece. Local spots like Cask & Larder, Rifle Paper Co. and The Imperial Bar house his custom woodworking. When he isn’t creating furniture in his shop, he’s doing large-scale public art pieces. His work can currently be seen in the city of Winter Park’s “Art in Chambers” exhibition.

The team at HEH is currently working on putting out a production line of furniture and home goods, from inexpensive wooden planters to $4,500 dining room tables, to be sold online early next year. The items would already be designed and materials sourced so it would cut down the wait time and cost for someone not looking for a custom item.

Custom or not, all of Sligar’s designs require a lot of thought. He works on loose sketch paper, every piece going through several versions before it’s perfect. Hours of research and digging for inspiration happen behind the scenes. But that storm of ideas is his favorite part of the process.

For more information about Hog Eat Hog, visit hogeathog.com

“I really like the genesis,” he said. “I like that kind of world of when things are first thought up.”

He finds inspiration in everything he sees and reads, from a boat building article to the modern architecture in local towns like Winter Haven. He’s still a little child-like in the way he loves building and creating art with wood, he said. He’s fascinated by the material’s role in building throughout history, which he said has made a huge impact on shaping how we live. He loves its warmth, strength and diversity. It’s something he can’t get away from, and enthusiasm for his work he can’t ever imagine losing.

“That just stays with me,” he said. “You can’t do something like this unless you’re really passionate.”

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