Photo by Diana Conard. Pictured left to right are HCC professional crafts wood students Rachel McClintock, Billy Burke and Michael Layne. The trio recently pooled their equipment and resources together to open Canton Woodworking Shop and Gallery. Visit them at 127 Main Street in Canton. 

Haywood Community College’s professional crafts programs offer hands-on training in a supportive environment where students learn together and inspire each other on their creative journey. When HCC professional crafts wood students Billy Burke, Michael Layne and Rachel McClintock came across an opportunity to rent a gallery and workshop together to continue the supportive environment they enjoy, they knew it was something they could not pass up.

The trio recently pooled their equipment and resources together to open Canton Woodworking Shop and Gallery. Each with their own unique style, the culmination is a great mix of art that satisfies any taste. Even though all three of the students are in the middle of the two year college program, they decided to move forward to open the business and put their experience and what they have learned so far to use.

“This was a unique opportunity to utilize a space that already had a workshop and a gallery,” explains Layne. “It was financially easier to share the expense with two other artists.”

Although Canton Woodworking Shop and Gallery has been open only a short while, these artists are reaping the benefits. “To have the support of each other in the same room is just great,” says McClintock. “We are going through the same things. We can have round table discussions on everything from pricing to styles.”

“We get that same experience at school,” Layne adds. “The comradery and feedback is invaluable.”

For Burke, he says just being in the downtown district is beneficial. “To hear the neighboring business owners talk about things they are planning for their businesses is very inspiring.”

Likewise, it is truly inspiring to walk into Canton Woodworking Shop and Gallery. There’s a good mix of the three distinct styles offered by the woodworkers. For Burke, his work tends to be historic reproductions of a Shaker style which results in simple but elegant art.

Coming from eastern Kentucky, Burke worked in horticulture where he started building sheds and decks. He was attending the University of Kentucky for horticulture but found he enjoyed woodworking more than working with plants. A late night internet search brought him to HCC’s website where he applied immediately to the College. He packed up and moved to Western North Carolina to pursue an education and career with wood.

Layne started dabbling in woodworking while in the military. Next he spent some time working in a cabinet shop which solidified for him that he wanted to work with wood. Through his small garage woodworking shop, his interest kept growing. He describes his pieces as simple but modern.  

McClintock came to HCC with a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Arkansas. She has experience in everything from dealing poker in Las Vegas to working in corporate and office environments.

“I grew up doing hard labor and missed working with my hands,” she explains. “Coming to HCC and learning to work with wood brought peace I didn’t know I was missing. The first time in class that I ever used the hand plane, I probably did it six hours straight. I just loved it.”

McClintock describes her work as modern and contemporary. 

When the trio decided to pursue their business, they reached out to HCC’s Small Business Center. “I felt like the Small Business Center could help us with the weak points,” Layne says.

The Haywood Community College Small Business Center provides free confidential one-on-one counseling, informational seminars and workshops and resource referrals for current and prospective small businesses in Haywood County.

“Through attending the free seminars and talking with other small business owners in various stages of their business, we learned things to watch out for and things that worked for them,” said Layne. “Through meeting with Katy, she brought up things we were missing. It gave me the confidence I needed to take the leap. It’s nice to know the resource is there.”

Soon, Burke, Layne and McClintock want Canton Woodworking Shop and Gallery to bring together all mediums for a range of fine art. Already there are collaborative pieces with other HCC students in the shop.

Canton Woodworking Shop and Gallery is located at 127 Main Street in Canton and is open Thursday through Saturday 4-7 p.m. The artists will also be in the shop other days. Stop by or make an appointment at www.cantonwoodworkingshop.com.

Visit SBC.Haywood.edu or call 828.627.4512 for additional information or to register today. Thinking about starting a business in Haywood County or growing an existing business? Take advantage of the programs, services, and resources provided by the Small Business Center. The NC Community College’s Small Business Center Network facilitates an economic impact in 90 percent of all NC counties each year and ranks number one in the U.S. for total business seminars and participants. In addition, the network helps start an average of over 700 businesses every year and works to create and retain 3,800 jobs annually for North Carolina. Visit ncsbc.net for more information.