Old School Skill, New School Tools

Grace Tatigian

When my publisher recommended I reach out to Art for Everyday Inc., he called them a “Canadian gem,” and he was absolutely right. Art For Everyday is a designer and manufacturer of architectural woodcarving that creates high-quality, timeless woodcarvings, providing innovative design details to designers, architects, and cabinetry companies.

I had a lovely chat with Soroush Mahmoodi, president of the company and son of the company’s founder Manoo Mahmoodi. He gave me a history of the family-run company and had a lot to say about the evolution of their design process.

“Our business has really changed over the years; the biggest section of our floor used to be master carvers, now we have four,” Mahmoodi told me.

I was curious how one finds a master carver to hire these days. The answer was what I expected.

“The four that we have now have been here since day one,” he told me. “We’re always out there looking, running ads, searching with every agency, keeping an eye out for when they retire. But it’s not easy.”

And since the business started in 1998, retirement won’t be too far off for these long-term employees. So instead, Art for Everyday has had to adapt its design and production process to reflect the talent they have on staff. This means relying on improved 3D modelling to get the process started. The master carvers come in at the end to hand finish every piece along with their team of sanders. 

“The art of sanding — nobody really pays attention,” he said. “But I’d argue that sanding is just as artistic as carving itself.” 

It’s one of those jobs that when it’s done poorly, it sticks out like a sore thumb, but if it’s done well, you don’t notice it at all. Sanders, particularly those working at Art for Everyday, are doing incredibly detailed work.

You’d think it would be this hands-on work that would be the bottleneck, what takes the longest and slows the process, but these carvers are labeled as ‘master’ for a reason and are efficient and precise in their work. Their current bottleneck is actually with the programming process, and they need more modellers to keep up with their workload. But regardless of how many modellers they hire, they’re always going to need that hand-finished touch.

The transition from old-school artistry to technical know-how was hard-won by Mahmoodi. He started working for his father in 2001 on his summers off from his computer science degree. Regardless of his technical background and his family connections, he started from the very bottom — cleaning the sawdust out of the clamps — and worked up to his current position. Every step of the way, he pushed his father to implement new, innovative tech solutions. 

“First, I pushed my father to let me design a website for the company. Later, I convinced him to let me manage the office computer network, get a digital ordering system, then introduce CNC machines,” he explained. It took years of research and experience to get his father to implement these changes.

But these changes are part of what has kept Art for Everyday in the game for so long. While they had tough times in the recession in 2008, they’ve rebuilt significantly, and their workload is significant. 

“Art for Every Day has more than 10,000 businesses as their clients. Principally, our clients are members of kitchen design industries, but we also cater to interior design and architectural firms.”

Their carvings are made from solid wood blocks giving every final piece an aesthetic advantage for colour-matching and a structural advantage. Their colour matching process is exact and efficient as they only cut from small amounts of blocks at a time. Woods include nine core species, including maple, cherry, and alder. They use the best hard maple in the world sourced from environmentally managed forests in North America. 

Driven by a commitment to originality, they offer their clients a selection of 1,200 ready-to-ship products and the unique ability to bring design visions to life with custom carving capabilities.

Because their work is so precise and unique, they get a lot of unusual projects.

“We do a lot of musical instruments. We’ve done a couple of pianos for the white house, one for a French castle — billiard tables, lots of fine, detailed work,” he told me. “Sometimes these customers are celebrities or private people. Sometimes we don’t know the end buyer for our work.”

Regardless of the size of the project or the client, Art for Everyday still puts the same care and attention into every piece, from their most popular corbels to the most unusual custom projects.

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