Arthur Woody, the great-grandfather of present Woody’s Chair Shop owner, Jimmy Woody, began the family tradition of chair-making. “Uncle Arter,” as he was called by his friends and neighbors, built a grist mill beside a creek and used a water wheel to grind corn meal. He quickly adapted the wheel shaft on his mill to turn a wood lathe, allowing him to create longer chair posts in a shorter amount of time. This innovation led to the development of the ever popular straight, ladder-back chair.
Besides actually making the chairs, Arthur also loved teaching others about his craft. He was one of the first instructors at the internationally acclaimed Penland School of Crafts (see Gift from the Hills, by LeGette Blythe, pages 139-141). His son, Charlie, and daughter, Decie, were also instructors at Penland. Their work began raising the awareness of the quality of Woody’s chairs, which is today considered to be no less than an art form. Arthur was also a founding member of the prestigious Southern Highland Craft Guild.
Arthur made chairs from the late 1800’s until his death in 1954. Many of these chairs are still being used by local families in western North Carolina and are considered collectors’ items.
Descendants Arval and Walter Woody were asked by the governor of North Carolina to create chairs for President John F. Kennedy’s children. The governor later gave his own Woody’s chair to the President himself to help with his back problems. Woody chairs are held by the Smithsonian for preservation and display, and have been featured in countless publications, from National Geographic to Southern Living. In 1993, Arval Woody was named a “North Carolina Living Treasure”.
By focusing on maintaining the natural integrity of our most cherished American hardwoods, our chairs are made for daily use and, at the same time, add beauty to homes all over the world.