Craftsmanship with benefits

Restoring lives, crafts, and the environment

Lamon Luther is a United States company that designs and builds furniture from reclaimed materials. Its employees are skilled craftsmen who were forced into homelessness during the recent recession. Lamon Luther’s mission is manifold: it is about keeping craftsmanship alive, creating hope and opportunity for homeless carpenters, as well as reusing of reclaimed materials.

LL Craftsmen

Talent in the woods
In 2008, the American economy had come to a grinding halt. Many talented people in the building industry lost their jobs. Over time, they lost their homes, families and dignity. Some of them were carpenters and ended up being homeless. Brian Preston, founder of Lamon Luther, learned about a community of homeless people living in a makeshift camp in the woods near his home in the state of Georgia. Wanting to help, he became acquainted with the homeless and soon became aware that simply donating supplies was not going to structurally change their prospects for the better. They needed jobs and an opportunity to provide for themselves. At the time, Preston was working as creative director, designing graphics and doing photography. But being a craftsman at heart, he longed for his carpentering. He decided to give his dream a shot and started off hiring the men to work in a carpentry workshop. He picked up Roger Anthony Curtis from the camp and brought him to a workshop to see whether his carpentry skills were still good after years of wandering around homeless. He was pleasantly surprised by what he saw and eventually hired two more men from the camp and another who was living in a trailer. He decided to found a custom design-build carpentry business with these men as the crew. Soon, Curtis and the others had saved up enough money to move out of the woods into a group home.

Keeping the tradition of craftsmanship alive
The concept proved to be a success and a fullblown carpentry business soon followed. All of the current carpenters have become financially independent enough to move out of the woods and into apartments. As the business continues to grow, they will continue to find homeless men to hire. “In the current economic climate, there are many skilled workers out there who need a job. Finding them and connecting them to our work will not be a challenge,” Lamon Luther founder Preston states. Since the start of their business, they have hired only one person who was not homeless to handle logistics. First and foremost, Lamon Luther wants to be a tribute to the American craftsman. Being a craftsman is a calling, according to the company. That’s why it equips these craftsmen-in-need with the tools that they once loved, thereby keeping alive the tradition of American craftsmanship that is disappearing with each generation.

Every piece of furniture tells a story
Reclaimed and repurposed materials are used in all Lamon Luther creations. They create an art of picking and selecting specific materials that capture the essence of the process. They rescue and restore anything from shipping pallets to old barns to recycled metals. Lamon Luther builds its products with materials that would otherwise end up in landfills and every finished product is unique and one-of-a-kind. A table is more than just a table: it’s a place where memories will be made for years to come. Lamon Luther hopes that consumers will pass its handcrafted products down, which is why they are built to last longer than a lifetime.

The new philanthropy
The workshop is growing quickly. There’s an ongoing flow of custom orders coming in. That’s why Lamon Luther is now looking at renovating an old warehouse into an expansive new facility in order to keep up with the amount of work. The goal is not to scale the company to something that loses the personal nature of its story. Nonetheless, they do intend to grow so that they can help restore and train more and more craftsmen, as well as produce more and more quality products. Lamon Luther is a free enterprise on a mission. “The perception is that you can’t do good while being a free enterprise,” Preston says. However, he believes that the modern-day consumer is increasingly interested in free enterprise that gives back, that does good, and creates good. “I think we are sending a message to the world that says: this is the new philanthropy. It’s okay to make money and do good.”

Lamon Luther is an example of sustainist design because it combines bottom-up development, local rootedness, and making “more with less” by turning waste materials into unique pieces of furniture. Lamon Luther is not invented and implemented in a top-down manner. Rather, it has come into being as a result of the talents that were available. They jointly shape the company. Passion, enthusiasm, and empathy are its instigators.

Lamon Luther’s founding designer aimed to combine his passion for craftsmanship with doing good. His company is now creating context-specific social value in the form of local business with additional benefits on different levels.

Lamon Luther is more than just a company: it represents a community that is rediscovering the value of the local and of craftsmanship. The collective makers culture and the sharing of expertise is used to imbue the community with meaning.

The Lamon Luther workshop qualifies as a designed environment— a situation—that exemplifies restoration in every way: it restores craftsmanship, it reuses local materials, and it shares knowledge and expertise related to carpentry and local style and culture.

The collaborative effort of making a complete new business can only be done by the peer-to-peer process of sharing knowledge and collectively developing skills.

The value of local resources and materials is being addressed. The craftsmen are connected to their direct living environment and they use the local resources thoughtfully. As a result, each piece of furniture that is produced by Lamon Luther carries its own meaningful story. The craftsmen as well as the products reflect a sense of place.

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