About Us

Motivation

Natural Designs Woodturning is a small woodworking shop in Charleston, South Carolina owned by Anna Ruggiero. Although Anna has always enjoyed working with her hands, it wasn’t until she inherited her grandfather’s 1948 Shop Smith that she was introduced to woodturning. Less than a year after taking a class at a local woodworking store she was offered a teaching position. Woodturning, which had already become her passion, also became her profession.

“I strive to make pieces that are beautiful and functional. To create a piece that is both aesthetically pleasing and useful is extremely important to me. I enjoy spendingtime in the marshes and maritime forests near my home, and am inspired by the patterns and textures in nature. Incorporating that into my work keeps me trying newthings. I also believe I have an obligation to use our natural resources wisely.”

Growth

Natural Designs Woodturning LLC (formerly Southernlyon Designs) was founded in June 2007. At that time the workshop was lit by two 60 watt light bulbs, thedust collection consisted of a broom and dustpan, and the HVAC system involved opening or closing the garage door and hoping for the best. Although winters wereusually mild, there’s nothing quite like turning Christmas ornaments in a 90 degree shop as your paste wax becomes a liquid. For the first three years, SouthernlyonDesigns concentrated on building a quality product line, a local retail customer base reached through local and regional craft fairs, and developing relationships withgalleries and shops in and around Charleston. Soon, the Shop Smith and Anna’s first dedicated lathe weren’t enough to keep up with the demands of production. She purchased a second mini lathe, and took the Shop Smith out of the production line.

In late fall 2010 Anna applied for a small business loan through the Charleston Local Development Corporation. “This was an intense process that required me toclearly define the direction and goals for my business, and create a detailed ‘road map’ of how I was going to get there. It was the first time I had to convince an outside organization that my business was growing, viable, and an asset to the community.” The LDC granted Anna’s loan request, which allowed her to accelerate the growthof her business in several ways including:

  • Changing the name to Natural Designs Woodturning, which reflects the work produced
  • Purchasing additional equipment to increase production speed and capacity
  • Hiring an employee to assist with production
  • Launching the redesigned and upgraded website you’re now browsing designed and built by David Mandel of Ampersand Industries
  • Reaching out to new potential wholesale clients through targeted advertising and participation in wholesale craft shows
  • Improving the working conditions in the shop by installing additional Energy Star approved lighting, a central dust collection system, air filter, and a real, appropriately sized energy efficient HVAC unit

Ecology

Natural Designs Woodturning is committed to using ecologically friendly practices. All imported hardwood is from Certified Sustainable sources. Domestic hardwoods and domestic laminates are purchased through small, family owned US-based businesses. “We also will gladly use other people’s scrap wood if it is viable turning stock. That’s an advantage to working ‘small.’ Other people’s cut-off ends are just the right size for me to create a functional piece of art.” How small is too small? “Once a piece of wood is less than 5/8” square or 3” long, I usually have to part with it. Our colorful scraps are boxed up and used in a local school art program.Our wood shavings from domestic woods are composted for use by friends and family, and some of our longer thinner pieces we give away as kindling. One of the challenges we face is a seemingly excessive amount of packaging for some of our hardware. We recycle all paper and paperboard, and either reuse or recycle corrugated shipping boxes. This means you shouldn’t be surprised if your order comes wrapped in the local paper or with an odd assortment of packaging, we’re just trying to reduce both the amount of waste we produce, as well the amount of “fresh” materials we require.

Finishes are determined by a product’s intended use, but components of our finishes include beeswax, carnauba wax, shellac, lacquer, walnut oil, and lavender oil.

Community

At Natural Designs Woodturning we recognize that our business is based on the relationships we develop, and that we are blessed with a great fortune. Wealso believe that it’s important to give back to the community that gives to us. We do this in three ways:

  • “In-Kind” Donations: We donate hand crafted items to various charitable organizations to use as silent auction or raffle prizes. If you have an organization that would benefit from this type of donation, let us know.
  • “Day of Service”: On our day of service, our employees are paid to work a normal shift, but instead we volunteer with a local food pantry or with aprogram that provides school supplies, clothes, books and toys to children at a local elementary school in an underserved area.
  • Special Necklace Sales: 25% of the sale price of these pendants is donated to Water Missions International. Anna explains why she chose this organization: “About two weeks after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan I was washing dishes at the sink. I had just taken a nice hot shower, and next to me the washing machine was churning away. I was thinking about how lucky I am to live in a place where I have safe clean water on demand. I also was thinking about the resilience of the Japanese people, and it was that combination of thoughts that led me to create the “Strength” and “Water” Kanji necklaces. Clean, safe, accessible water is such a basic need, and Water Missions International provides filtration, storage, and desalination units that are easily sustainable.

Organizations

Anna is a professional member of the American Association of Woodturners, a member of the International Association of Pen Turners, a member of the SC Artisans Center, and a member of the Charleston Crafts Cooperative.

Anna Ruggiero of Natural Designs Woodturning