A little bit about Fred Hean…
All my life I have been drawing and building things. From playing with blocks as a young child, to building forts and models as a boy, to designing and building architectural models as a high school and college student, these are activities in which I could always spend many contented hours, nourishing a feeling of creative accomplishment. Summer jobs in my college years were largely those of a carpenter's helper, gaining hands-on practical experience in the building industry. The physical activity of it was appealing, and seems related to being part of some endeavor where accomplishments were visible and tangible on a daily basis. After college I continued working as a carpenter and then as a licensed contractor. However, I soon knew that I wanted to learn finer ways of woodworking.
Over the next few years I encountered the works and thoughts of various master craftsmen in the field---especially James Krenov, Sam Maloof, George Nakashima, and Tage Frid---all of whom contributed, unknown to them, to my education by osmosis, by observation, reading, and practice.
I set up shop as a business, Willow Woodworking, in 1980, in a pre-Civil War former tavern in the crossroads town of Darnestown, Md. The large hand-carved sign from that era still hangs today in my shop, though I have since changed the name for business reasons. I didn't have a business plan, I never even advertised. In those days before the internet it was all word of mouth referrals and repeat customers. I bartered with my dentist to make him some office furniture, for example, and his partner asked me to make some furniture for his home. I still did some remodeling jobs, which multiple times led to cabinetry and furniture referrals. I was a designer, builder, and craftsman, earning a livelihood and the appreciation of my clients, while enhancing and refining my skillset. For a guy with no formal training in the field, I was happily self-employed doing the kind of work I enjoyed, and that has pretty much been the story ever since.
After moving to Charlottesville, Virginia in 1986, and some years in McGuffey Art Center there, my shop is now in the hills of Albemarle County, where I work primarily in North American hardwoods. From here, I service clients in Charlottesville, Richmond, Central and Northern Virginia, and the DC areas.