Artist Susan Hable reflects on her longtime partnership with Hickory Chair. As told to Michelle Brunner:
Ten years ago, our family pulled up stakes, left New York City, and settled in Athens, Georgia. At the time, the economy was in peril, and we wondered: How are we going to refocus our textile brand, Hable Construction, and deal with the changes? Simultaneously, Hickory Chair was looking for new ways to innovate. The timing was right, so we came onboard to create its first designer fabric collection.
We had been making textiles for a few years, but to grow as a company, we knew we had to expand—and I thought we should try creating a furniture collection. My sister and business partner, Katharine, and I love to see the inner workings of things. That curiosity is at the core of everything we’ve done. I knew furniture would be no different.
I always think of the saying, “ask for what you need,” which is such a good reminder in life. Positive things have come out of transition periods for us. Hickory Chair was nearing its 100th anniversary in business, and wanted to keep pushing forward. (I think that’s the key to its success.) In 2015, we launched our first furniture collection, and with it, I tried to create foundation pieces that we could add to later. I approached it like building a house—after all, if the bones aren’t good, what’s the point?
We’re now on our third collection, and when I look at it, I see a range of influences: Scandinavian, Italian, Shaker and American Primitive, to name a few. The pieces are layered and unpredictable. As I get older, I think about how my home reflects who I am and the places I’ve been. There are stories in every piece. It’s not just furniture to me.
I wasn’t trained as a textile or furniture designer. My work started because I’m a fine artist. The only way my sister and I knew how to commercialize my artwork was to turn drawings into patterns and patterns into textiles and then make products. That fine art connection shows in the new hand-painted pieces for Hickory Chair. Whatever custom finish you dream of, the company can do.
Relationships are everything in this business and the partnership with Hickory Chair has been one of equal give and take—you can feel that with the people and see it in the craftsmanship. If we artists can collaborate with companies that are thoughtful in the same ways we are, it makes it all worthwhile.