Evolving Art for an Evolving Business

By Beacon Staff

WHITEFISH – Mark King’s art has evolved much like his business. The result of that evolution is clear when you step into his woodshop near his home in Whitefish. It’s a far cry from when he was working, living and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out of his shop in the late 1980s. Back then, King said, few people in the Flathead Valley were producing furniture that could also be displayed in an art gallery.

“When I moved here, the local contractors had a bet going on how long I’d last,” he said.

But 25 years after arriving in the valley, King has established himself as a talented craftsman who is leading a shop, Mark King and Friends, which makes everything from doors and furniture to coffins and bike stands.

In the late 1970s, King was working at a restaurant in Vail, Colorado, when he decided he enjoyed building more than cooking and began remodeling kitchens. He then began focusing on doors and later furniture. King said what sets his work apart from others is that he approaches each project like an artist.

“There are a lot of woodworkers out there who don’t use their imagination, they’re just content with stamping out doors from boxes,” he said.

A coffee table in King’s workshop was crafted with three different types of wood and stainless steel rings in the middle. Each type of wood, including African mahogany, myrtle and quilted maple, offers a different shade and grain and the table is valued at around $5,000.

“People thought I was crazy when I first got up here and then it turned into ‘well his stuff is kind of expensive, but it’s good’ and that eventually turned into a business,” he said.

King arrived in Whitefish in the late 1980s and struggled to get by for several years until he completed a few high-profile projects around town, including the back bar at the Remington.

The economic downturn hurt the housing industry in the Flathead, as well as King’s shop, but he and his business partner, Jon Hjertberg, have found unique projects to keep them busy and pay the bills. On a recent rainy morning, Hjertberg was working on something he called a wine box, a wooden box that holds bagged wine and is more visually pleasing than a regular cardboard box the wine is often packaged in. Hjertberg said each box would sell for upwards of $200.

“I think Mark and I want to build products that are aesthetically pleasing, quality and durable,” he said. “We want to make things affordable, but making it cheap is not our priority.”

King said he wants to build items that last, and it shows in each project he takes on.

“I can’t think of anything I’d rather do,” he said.

For more information about Mark King and Friends woodshop and photos of their products, visit www.markkingandfriends.com.

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