N.C. Furniture School is relocating to Farmville
BY Angela Harne
The Farmville Enterprise
Monday, June 10, 2019
FARMVILLE — The town of Farmville is gaining a new business that will blend into its growing art scene.
The N.C. Furniture School is relocating from downtown Ayden to the old NAPA building on Wilson Street, located across the street from The GlasStation.
Texas native Stuart Kent founded the N.C. Furniture School in 2014. In August 2017, he opened the Woodturning Mobile Classroom and moved the N.C. Furniture School to downtown Ayden.
Kent teaches flatwork classes, which allows students to create traditional furniture like chests and chairs. He also offers round work classes, where students create wood bowls, boxes, urns, vases, candlesticks and more.
The school offers weekend sessions. Classes are either traditional furniture making or skill-building workshops.
In furniture making courses, students construct blanket chests and learn how to use the tools and equipment. The interest for the school’s woodturning classes appears higher than the furniture making classes.
“It’s a smaller footprint with an instant gratification,” Kent said. “Students can come in and make a bowl and then eat a salad out of it. There’s also a general interest in bowls and vessels.”
The Ayden-based classroom featured six full-sized lathes and 14 mini lathes, allowing 20 students to turn at a time.
But the N.C. School of Furniture outgrew its space in Ayden.
“I’m excited about opening in Farmville,” Kent said.
“I have had numerous conversations with The Farmville Group the past year,” he said, adding Raleigh representatives were also trying to recruit him to the state capitol. “I’m committed to eastern North Carolina. I felt Farmville better met our goals for the school, which is to foster a creative economy. We want to be a part of the community, and contribute to the community.”
The Farmville location will double his footprint, Kent said.
“In Ayden, we had no room to grow,” he said. “In Farmville, we have room for growth and will have shared access with The DeVisconti Arts and Event Center and gallery space throughout town.
He added that he hopes to collaborate with local artists and East Carolina University’s GlasStation.
Kent said he hopes to be open in Farmville this summer.
The new location will also expand the school’s class offerings.
“With the twice the square footage, we can add machines and hold more classes within a year,” Kent said. “I’ve been at capacity for awhile in Ayden with people on a waiting list.”
The class sizes will remain the same — a limit eight for woodturning and 12 for furniture making.
“But within the first year, I hope to hold one-third more classes and by the second year double our number of classes,” Kent said.
He is grateful to the town of Ayden for its support over the past five years.
“I will miss Ayden, but I’m excited about moving to a town that is a better fit for our business with an art focus,” Kent said. “I confident Farmville is a long-term fit.”
So is The Farmville Group, a grassroots organization comprised of businessmen who work behind the scenes recruiting companies and industries to Farmville and help existing businesses expand.
“The N.C. Furniture School brings a new form of art to Farmville. It is experiential — people can dive in and create — not sit back and observe,” said Todd Edwards, a member of The Farmville Group. “This is an exciting addition to town, which is bearing other fruit.”
The N.C. Furniture School caters to adults and children.
Kent works with children ages 12 and older accompanied by an adult. His students are diverse in race, gender and age. His oldest student is 92 years old.
“A majority who walk in our door have never done anything like this before but have an interest to learn,” Kent said. “Our students bring questions every day. It is fun to be challenged and learn something new.”
The mobile classroom has eight stations. It frequents schools, churches, civic organizations and private parties. Kent partners with a Christian camp in Washington, N.C., and a group of parents who home-school their children in Raleigh. He helps the children create bowls, baseball bats, rocket ships and cars.
Kent began woodworking at age 15. He created special pieces for high-end customers of a firm that contracted with Bassett Furniture, private corporations and higher learning institutions.
He felt he had found his calling. In 2008, he decided to branch out on his own and launched his furniture-making business.
Then the recession hit.
“I weathered the first part and kept at it,” Kent said, explaining just prior to the recession he had landed a contract to build furniture for East Carolina University.
In 2012, Kent was named a Fulbright Scholar, which granted him the ability to travel with his wife for 18 months to write a furniture-making curriculum for National University of Costa Rica.
While he was gone, East Carolina University closed the furniture-making department, so he decided to begin teaching on his own and offering private lessons, which morphed into the N.C. Furniture School.
To register for a class or to view Kent’s work, visit ncfurnitureschool.com or stuartkent.com.