It’s not unusual to catch award-winning artist and musician Mark Whitley strumming out a few Americana, folksy tunes under the corrugated arches of his steel awning.
Every day he performs an amazing balancing act. He has to split time between being a dedicated father to his 8-year-old son, a husband, talented musician, and spending hours in his shop creating some of the most spectacular wooden masterpieces.
His futuristic wooden furniture has earned him several awards, national recognition, and his work is also featured in the Joe Downing Museum in Kentucky.
Mark creates what he calls “functional art” for people who are looking for woodwork with that whimsical touch. He handcrafts beautiful tables, cabinets, chairs, and beautiful wooden works of art.
Mark has been in the woodworking industry most of his life. He grew up on a tobacco and cow farm in Kentucky and started working with wood when he was just five years old. His father made cabinets, so Mark had the materials and tools he needed at his disposal.
He says his father allowed him to create projects freely. He made plenty of mistakes, but he learned the craft and became better and better every day with every project. Over the years, he became a master in the art. He learned how to bend and curve the wood in unusual ways and it has helped him to create his original designs.
Mark actually did not plan to go into the woodworking business initially. He went off to college in California and earned a degree in Peace Studies. He was about to get himself geared up for graduate school when he made a major decision that would change the course of his entire life. He returned to what he loved the most—woodworking.
“It just always made sense to me; building things, putting things together,” says Mark.
He returned home to Kentucky and his career really started to take shape. Mark wanted to create furniture, but he knew he wanted to do something different. He read a book by another artist in the field, and he was inspired to take his work to the next level. Instead of mass producing basic wooden furniture, he turned his business into an actual art.
After he discovered a deeper purpose for his work, he began winning awards and gaining popularity. He now participates in art shows and creates special pieces for collectors who want one-of-a-kind furniture.
One of the keys to his amazing artwork is the quality of the materials. Mark, who calls himself a wood scavenger, is always on the hunt for quality wood and uses his SteelMaster shed to store and dry the unique pieces he finds.
He has built special wooden endwalls and installed wooden floors to allow adequate airflow in the building to dry the wood properly.
Mark says with the help of just a few friends, it only took him a day to raise the arches for the shed.
This was not his first SteelMaster project. He owns three different SteelMaster structures. He also buiit his own carport for his 76 Volkswagon van he restored the steel awning for his home.
“I came to SteelMaster because I wanted a carport, but I wanted one that was unique.”
After he installed the carport, he was ready for more. He actually used the money he won from an arts foundation to build the Quonset HutTM shed.
When Mark is not busy with his family, donating pieces to schools and museums, or creating remarkable works of art, he is recording beautiful music with his band.
They are now working on an album that will be in the production phase through the winter. During this process, he plans to take full advantage of the amazing acoustics inside of his SteelMaster shed to enhance the sound.
“It’s interesting the way the sound reflects off of the roof,” says Mark. “It adds a neat color to what you’re playing.”
Mark also added a unique, artistic touch to his A-frame home when he installed his steel awning. He says the awning enhanced the home’s look and also gave him the free, open space he needed. He says he likes it for its aesthetic value, but loves the fact that it’s strong and requires little maintenance.
“Two feet of snow was sitting on top of it and it’s just as solid as a rock,” says Mark.
He has certainly found a variety of uses for his steel panels.
This shows that Mark is not only talented at putting together amazing art made of wood, he has proven he’s also a master of steel.
Mark is now preparing for even bigger projects. He is working on an upcoming special on PBS and he is also getting ready for major woodworking shows.