“I made this chair and table set for a couple in Stillwater,” explained Manny Moreno as we looked through his binder of past commissions together. “They live in a gated community that wouldn’t let them put any kind signs on their lawn. As strict as those rules are, though, they don’t dictate anything about patio furniture. The couple told me the message they wanted to get across, and I designed something that they loved. Now they’ve got something meaningful on their porch, and they’re sticking it to their HOA in style!”This instance of Manny’s work underscores what he finds so precious about what he does with Do Wood Son. I believe he would be happy enough if he could only make custom wooden furniture from the comfort of his three car garage in Uptown, complete with his ancient bird dog Lucy and saw dust covered ‘63 Impala Super Sport to keep him company. But that he gets to make things which his clients attach special meaning to — well, that’s the goal of the artist, isn’t it? Getting to thumb his nose at authority is just icing on the cake.
“I didn’t get started with professional woodworking until a couple of years ago, when I lost my insurance job,” Manny continued. “I mean, living in this old Victorian meant I’ve always had to do a lot of projects, and my daughter’s old doll house in the backyard gave me some experience. The real push into doing this full-time, though, was realizing that I never wanted to work in the corporate world again.”
(Those preambles to Do Wood Son weren’t insubstantial. What Manny calls a doll house is roughly on par with my apartment in terms of sheer square footage, and his Victorian was built while Grover Cleveland first held office — plenty of opportunities for an amateur carpenter there.)
Manny’s furniture, which primarily takes the form of Adirondack chairs, are anything but the work of a layman. Nearly every one he showed me, whether they lined his wraparound deck or stacked to the ceiling of his workshop, were unique. One was laser engraved with a Día de Muertos skull. One had Prince himself photorealistically etched into it. Another had a Vikings logo, each carefully inlaid piece individually painted, replete with LEDs to give it a purplish glow. Even more proclaimed allegiance to other teams and places, some as obscure as the Houston Astros and Vermont.
“I found my niche with pieces that let people express who they are,” said Manny. “We have a lot of transplants here in the Twin Cities, so a Californian or a Coloradoan living here can still claim part of their identity in a functional way. Some of my clients in mixed marriages, like a Minnesotan and Wisconsite for example, love buying two chairs for each of their respective heritages.”
“When I go to home shows and festivals, I do fine taking whatever I’ve got at random to set up for display. I never know what people are going to react to — it’s surprisingly common to run into a Houston Astros fan in northern Minnesota.”
“It’s a bulky business,” Manny told me as I patted Lucy goodbye. “Loading up these heavy chairs all the time, it can be kind of a hassle. But I couldn’t be happier than I am to work with my hands, and to make something so much more important to people than insurance.”
To learn more about what’s making Manny so happy, and to tell him how he can bring your vision for a personalized piece of furniture to life, visit dowoodson.com.
By David Scheller