For Texas natives Kate & Julian Pastrana, the path that led to designing and shaping works of art from wood had very humble, and homely, beginnings. “When we first got married, we couldn’t afford any quality furniture for our house, so we just decided to start building it ourselves,” Julian told me in his soft spoken, genuine demeanor. And build it they did.
Part farmhouse, part furniture showroom, their home on the rural outskirts of Denton, Texas is an ever-evolving canvas of the couple’s creativity, and sense of design. Bar stools, serving boards, tables of various sizes, and prototype chairs populate their country home, which acts as both drawing board and proving ground.
“The advantage of building things for ourselves first is that we get to make sure it works. We sit on the bar stools, eat off the serving boards, and break in the tables. It has to work in our home before it can be in anyone else’s,” Kate told me as we sipped coffee on their screened in porch (which they also built). With hints of improvement projects around every corner, including custom woodwork on the walls, their abode is a testament to a philosophy of function.
Operating out of their adjacent garage turned workshop, the couple collaborates on the process from start to finish; from home improvement idea, to polished product. This also allows them to spend more time together on Julian’s days off from being a full time firefighter and EMT. And though they both have creative backgrounds, neither of them had any woodworking experience prior to this endeavor.
“I taught myself to play the guitar years ago, so I figured I could teach myself to run a few saws too,” Julian confidently stated, his shirt and jeans festooned with sawdust from a recent wood cut. “It’s always a learning process…about different types of wood, where to find them, and their individual properties. We use a lot of Texas woods, most of which are sourced locally, and we enjoy educating people about what we discover through the process.”
In a world dominated by single servings and furniture built by number, the Pastranas are hand making products that will stand the test of time, grow in beauty, and hopefully be passed on as family heirlooms. Though it is their business, the fact that it remains a creative outlet for home improvement, ensures the authenticity and virtue in their aims; they want to create beautiful things that will work, and last.
“It’s a passion for us, and something we will continue to do regardless of whether people buy anything or not,” Kate remarked, fighting a smile off that revealed just how happy and whole she feels doing this work. “That’s the difference between being JUST a woodworker, or being an artist…it’s not just about function, but about the desire to create something beautiful.” And those creations are being collected left and right by loyal customers, friends, and design aficionados, especially in Texas.
“We’ve been in business just over a year, and the response has been amazing. There is such a supportive community here in Denton, and the encouragement of other artists and peers has pushed us, and kept us going. Thankfully the growth has been very manageable, as it’s just the two of us filling orders,” Julian was happy to report.
While most of their business has come from online orders, success at recent pop-up shops has allowed them to branch into some larger, one-of-a-kind pieces for clients who wanted custom work, as well as several concept restaurants in the North Texas. Other times it’s just a friend who needs something specific for their house.
“We let the wood speak for itself, and try not to cover up the natural grains. We also don’t do a lot of raw edge work, so it isn’t very rustic, but can still fit into that aesthetic mix in someone’s home because of the natural woods,” Julian said of their style.
With the resurgence of the maker movement in recent years, people are once again learning to appreciate quality over quantity, which often requires an investment towards a marginally higher price tag. High caliber is becoming more popular, which is good news for the hard working folks behind Pastrana Studio. But regardless of changing times and trends, Kate & Julian will continue to craft wares that not only suit their lifestyle, but many of the ones yet to come. With a dedication to simple function, quality craftsmanship, and timeless design, this quiet couple behind Pastrana Studio is at the very pulse of what the maker movement is all about.