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Woodworking entrepreneur designs cultural art

Just across the street, Faris Ashkar pours his treasured Turkish coffee and beams while talking about his work.

Woodworking comes naturally for the entrepreneur who dreamed of having his own business by age 35. Growing up in a tradition-rich atmosphere in Sidon, Lebanon, was ideal for artists. He was taught drawing and design from his father, macramé; pottery, tailoring, and woodcarving from the locals.

“I start from scratch,” Ashkar said. Wood burning portraits, hand crafted decks, cabinetry, boxes, tables, banisters and anything else a customer needs keeps Ashkar innovative and excited about his work.

Many of the wooden signs around Knoxville were hand made by Ashkar.

He even designed the farragutpress’ wooden base for the “How the West was Won” trophy, given annually for high school football success.

Devoted to providing his clients with one-of-a-kind pieces, Ashkar takes into consideration the wood grain and colors. In one piece, he used Arabic letters to write a scripture from the book of Matthew about the fishers of men. Designing the letters in the shape of a boat and a net, he worked with the grain to allow a ripple effect in the wood. He used no stains to help, just the simplicity of the natural wood hue and grain.

Ashkar strives for three things: good aesthetics, functionality and affordability.

At age 6, in Lebanon, Ashkar started carving designs into plastics and wood. After coming to America through his Presbyterian church overseas, Ashkar enrolled in a work-study program at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C., where he credits much of his success in America. He designs tables for those who donate to the college with the college’s insignia.

Unlike in Lebanon, Ashkar discovered “plastics were everywhere” in America and decided to focus on woodworking as his hobby while studying economics at WWC.

He normally starts with rough lumber, allowing it to age for several years in his shop off Peterson Road in Farragut.

Cherry, maple of Lebanon, mahogany, chestnut, olive wood, oak and others are types of wood he uses. He enjoys using “Native American hardwoods such as maple, oak, walnut and birch.”

Most of Ashkar’s work is still done by hand, using just hand tools. He rarely uses nails or screws, keeping with the natural feel of his art.

In his spare time, he has been working on remodeling his own home from tile floors to hand-crafted wooden banisters and railings.

He gives lectures and demonstrations on his craft throughout the year. He also speaks on Middle Eastern history and the general history of Arabic Art.

He crafts small pieces such as earrings and larger items such as chandeliers. “Everything is made custom to suit the needs of my clients,” Ashkar said.

You can contact Ashkar through his web site


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