Maker of the Month: Tori Ward from TWDesigns

Maker of the Month: Tori Ward from TWDesigns

Beginning this month we're starting a new tradition of featuring local creatives and their brands.  As a small business, that word of mouth recommendation is crucial and we've never been shy to share other companies and brands that we personally love.  We'll be sharing one each month in an effort to dive even deeper into these awesome makers and to find out what drives, motivates, and inspires them.

Our very first maker was an easy choice.  Tori Ward from TWDesigns is seriously #bosslady goals.  I met Tori last year when I saw one of her custom farmhouse tables on Instagram and knew I had to have one.  We had just bought our house in March, and I asked her to make a table for us once we finished painting our dining room.  Since then she's created us an amazing 3D logo sign and we even have one of her beautiful watercolor prints hanging in our son's room.  I'm always so impressed by the variety of her work and honestly love everything she makes!  

1. Where did your creative spark begin? Are you able to trace the path/timeline that got you to where you are today?

As you guys can tell, I focus on art and woodworking so I’ll give you the background on both!

My first creative spark with art began in third grade. I actually painted a knight in art class for an assignment. I remember it was super colorful and had a lot of detail to it. Much to my surprise, my art teacher entered that painting into the South Carolina State Fair. My whole family came out to see it, and I think that’s when I really started to have a drive in art. It wasn’t until I moved down to Charleston though, where I felt confident enough to really embrace my own style of painting and drawing.

My first creative spark with woodworking started at a young age too. My dad is an excellent craftsman and artist. I would sit in the kitchen and just watch in awe while he would build in his wood shed. I would think to myself “How does he take that pile of wood, and turn it into a gorgeous hope chest, or a traditional looking desk? How?” Back in the 80’s, Instagram wasn’t around obviously, and the whole DIY community didn’t exsist, except on a single TV show. You learned the craft of woodworking through reading books, and through hands on experience, or through relatives that passed down their secrets of woodworking. My dad’s craftmanship is just one of a kind, and even today, he can take an idea and just turn it into this beautiful piece of wood furniture. He actually built a very unique hope chest for me when I graduated high school that I still have. So, I can honestly say that my passion for woodworking started at such a young age watching my dad with his love for woodworking. It wasn’t until November 2015 that I actually picked up my first saw though!

Fast-forward to my freshman year in college, I decided to major in art and graphic design. I found out very quickly that my colorful art, wasn’t a good fit in the art program. So, I chose a different career path, that led me to graduate with an undergrad degree in psychology and a masters +30 in counseling. However, as you can see, everything comes full circle in this story, and somehow I always managed to come back to art and woodworking. With the encouragement of my husband, and many family members, TWDesigns became an actual company in 2016, and I’ve been creating with my hands ever since!

2. What inspires your creativity?

I am a firm believer, that my faith and several family members are the inspiration to my creativity. There’s just no way, that my path and my little journey happened on my own. My logo that I designed actually has something to do with my inspiration! There are ten leaves that are located within my TWDesigns logo. Each leaf represents someone special to me that has inspired me, and when the paint and sawdust settles, my family is what really matters in life.

3. How does Charleston influence your work? Does any place outside of Charleston influence you as well?

Oh, Charleston, I mean how could this awesome city not influence anyone’s work??! Right? I’m originally from the Midlands (Lexington/Columbia area), and when I moved down to Charleston many years ago, I quickly realized how amazing the creative Charleston community actually was! With all the history, the beautiful scenery, and I mean let’s face it, the amazing beaches….it’s just the absolute best city to host so many amazing local small businesses. One of my favorite images that I designed (and have on several little items in my shop) is my Charleston Love logo. It features the Ravenel Bridge, one of the many landmarks that makes Charleston so lovely.

4. How have you grown your business from an idea to where it is now?

With a lot of faith, determiniation, courage and hard work, that’s definitely for sure!

In November 2015, I told my husband, “I’m not buying anymore furniture, I’m going to build our farm table and then I’m going to build everything else. I don’t want to purchase the exact same furniture I see everywhere. I want ours to be special and unique” Thankfully my husband totally encouraged me and said “Go for it.” Of course I spoke with my dad, and got some tips before hand…haha! That night something clicked in my garage, something just felt right. I finished up that farm table a day or two later (just in time for our annual Friendsgiving), and I loved the idea of seeing my work in our home. My husband Kyle said “You should do this, you should turn this and your art into a business”. After lots of prayers and a lot of planning, it just seemed like doors opened for me to be able to create this little business. I always say with a lot of faith, creativity and tons of hard work, anything is possible. The hard part is putting yourself out there into the world!

Today, as you could probably guess, every piece of furniture in our house I've built. I think the only thing that I haven't built is our couch haha! I’m honored and blessed to have several of my home decor products in two wonderful stores right here in Charleston, specifically in West Ashley. Fourteen & East and Charmed Beauty & Gifts carry several of my home decor products in their stores. If you would have asked me two years ago, if any of my ideas would ever be in a store, I probably would have said, “say what?!” I’m forever thankful to both Fourteen & East and Charmed Beauty & Gifts for giving my products a home within their lovely stores.

5. What do you create with and why?

With my art, I create with watercolors. All of my images are hand drawn and then painted in watercolors. It gives my images a whimsical, cartoonish look, I believe. I incorporate a lot of graphic design tools within my art as well, so that I can offer my images as prints. My studio office is my nice and neat space I can paint in. Now on the other hand, my shop where I create my furniture and wood home décor items, that’s a space that is constantly collecting saw dust…haha! With my wood home décor products and furniture, I use a ton of tools. My absolute favorite tool though is my scroll saw. My scroll saw allows me to take my art into the shop, and with this tool, I’m able to cut super fine details into any wood home décor item.

6. Do you keep a journal or sketchbook? Any tips for staying organized in the creative/business process?

Absolutely! I have sketchbooks that hold tons of images, and sketches of custom furniture items. I couldn’t survive without my design and sketchbooks. They’re also super near and dear to me because a lot of my ideas have started right on those pages.

One thing that I ALWAYS have on hand with me, at all times, is my production calendar. Essentially it’s my large planner, but it keeps me so organized, and honestly, I feel I’m able to crank out a number of orders throughout the week because of that calendar. I would highly suggest grabbing a calendar and using it, if you don’t already have one! Also, I use the Planoly App for my Instagram Page. It helps with giving a consistent look for my brand and my items!

7. What did you overcome to be here now?

I’ve always believed that everyone’s journey is completely different, whether it’s in business or just life in general. There are peaks and then there’s the valleys in each journey. While I’ve had some amazing peaks, I’ve had some valleys as well. I’ll share a very large hurdle that I had to overcome mentally and physically, while my company was still in the early stages.

One night in February 2017, I was actually mugged. I had an individual try and take my belongings from me and in the process of defending myself, my car keys fell out of my hands. My car was stolen right in front of me, and needless to say, it’s a night that I won’t ever forget. Thankfully, several firefighters arrived at the scene within seconds and the police arrived shortly after. I will never forget the kindness and prompt attention to each and every detail they assisted with. It was beyond horrific and unfortunately I ended up with some battle wounds, that eventually healed. Thankfully, this individual was caught after a long high speed chase in my car. My car was in shambles when police apprehended the individual, but I was so grateful to be able to be home that evening with my husband.

After all that, I took a step back to get my mind and body back to neutral. Everyone reacts differently when they’re faced with a traumatic event, and it didn’t take me long to realize that I needed to get back into the shop and just push forward. Some of my best pieces have come from that event, because it pushed me to really dig deep and focus on what was really important in life. I think through that experience, I really understand that each day is a blessing. We’re not promised every single day, and I am so grateful to be able to be here and continue working with my hands. It was a rough time, but it happened for a reason, and I’ve certainly grown from it.

8. What have you learned so far about business/creativity that you can share with others?

I’ve learned that it’s so important to network within the community. I have met some incredible, talented individuals right here within this amazing city! Get yourself out there and introduce yourself to the amazing other local businesses out here. It’s hard to do sometimes, but once you do, it’ll be the best decision you ever made! Also, don’t be afraid to jump and take that leap of faith! After all, everything starts with an idea!

9. Where are you headed?

I would love to open my own storefront one day, and partner with my dad. It would be so awesome to have products that I’ve created, as well as furniture that he could create too, in a store that would be family owned. Maybe it’ll happen one day, who knows. Anything is possible when you put your mind to it!

10. How can people connect with you?

I absolutely love connecting with others. I love collaborating with other small businesses too, and creating one of a kind pieces. It’s something that I’m very passionate about. So, feel free to contact me through my website, instagram or my facebook page!

Instagram: @twcustomdesigns
Facebook Page: @Twdesignscustomwork












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