Craftsman finds niche with mesquite
By Dana Delgado
BERTRAM — Craig Lagerstrom never imagined he would become a Master Furniture Craftsman.
The humble Bertram artisan and businessman had always held a strong affection for art and revered the blend of culture, arts and architecture in New Mexico where he spent many of his growing years. His dad’s career with the Veterans Administration afforded him many opportunities to travel and explore. The opportunity to discover and pursue his creative passion, however, would not present itself until much later.
In 1977, Lagerstrom found himself in the construction business.
“I started framing houses and gradually one thing led to another,” he said. “Soon I was doing trim work and then cabinets.”
While the work was fairly routine, Lagerstrom was smitten by the increasing creative aspects of some of his work, but continued pursuing a variety of jobs in construction for the next 12 years including the years following his relocation to Central Texas.
“I’d always done things with my hands,” he said, “and I really like art.”
It wasn’t until his daughter turned three that his future as a furniture craftsman would come to a focus.
“My parents gave us money to buy her a bed for her birthday,” he recalled. “After we got the bed home and took a good look at it, I told myself that I could do better.”
And he did. He ended up redesigning the entire bed and redefining his career path at the same time.
By 1989, Lagerstrom was building and selling furniture out of his home starting with pieces reflecting the Santa Fe style. He then created furniture in the chic Cowboys and Indians style before evolving into classic styles with a Texas flair in which he now specializes.
Amidst the sawdust and a vast collection of tools, Lagerstrom crafts his furniture at his Bertram-based shop. He says that some crafters find his methods rudimentary, but he remains true to his painstaking hand techniques in the tradition of historic furniture-making that provides for greater precision. These time-honored values of artisan woodworking have been Lagerstrom’s business tenets since the beginning.
“I build my business on traditional furniture that will last for generations,” he said.
The end result is impeccably constructed, authentic and timeless furniture that is handcrafted for homes of varied motifs.
Mesquite is the primary wood of choice for Lagerstrom because of its immense character and lasting beauty. It is also very dense, more than oak or walnut, and as such will shrink and expand less when the weather changes and be more resistant to dings, dents, scratches and other types of wear, he said.
Turquoise insets can be added to create a startling effect.
Texas Mesquite Company’s timeless furniture pieces have been featured in major magazines, including Cowboys & Indians, Texas Highways, and Veranda.
Lagerstrom’s growing business took residence on Gabriel Street in Bertram in 1999 with a stamp-size gallery fronting the street and a more expansive shop space in the back. A few years later, he moved his gallery around the corner to 244 E. State Highway 29, which had been occupied by the Bertram Police Department. When the City put the property up for bid, Lagerstrom took over ownership when he turned out to be the only bidder.
It is here, at the Texas Mesquite Co., that he has built a business recognized for its exquisite furniture prized for distinctive quality and detail, and all handcrafted. His pieces range from home furniture including dining tables and chairs; bedroom furniture including chests of drawers, night stands and headboards; standing cabinets, and entertainment centers to office furniture. Custom designs and personalized design services are also available.
At the end of a long day at his woodworking shop, Lagerstrom removes his dusty apron and climbs aboard his beloved Harley for an invigorating ride home.
He said rides like this, and especially those through wide open and winding back roads, nourish his affection for nature and are reminiscent of youthful experiences that helped shape not only his personal joys but influenced creative interests that would eventually lead him to become a craftsman who has garnered the respect of his artisan peers.
Texas Mesquite Co. is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, visit www.texmes.com.