Recycled, Reclaimed, Repurposed. Rustix Furniture & Design Studio creates one-of-a-kind pieces with a positive environmental impact.
When Heather Torraville and Jay Aristone decided to build their own coffee table, they did not know that the DIY project would lead them down a completely different path than the one they were currently on. But here we are years later, and they are two of the most sought-after furniture designers in London, Ontario, specializing in modern and live-edge design.
For those of you who are not yet familiar with live-edge (or natural edge) furniture, it is the wood remaining in its natural state after it has been cut. By leaving the knots visible and the natural lines raw, you are not only keeping the integrity of the tree but you are also getting a completely original, one-of-a-kind piece. The style can be applied to any item in your home or office. From tables and desks to kitchen islands and shelving, the art form introduces a unique dimension to any room.
Adding to the authenticity of the product, Rustix uses some of the 1,200 or so hazardous or rotting trees that are cut down every year by the city. So, when you order a piece of furniture from Rustix, many times you are able to know exactly where the wood came from in the city.
The decision to quit their jobs to join London’s growing entrepreneur scene did not happen overnight. “It’s scary to leave your full-time job with regular pay; jumping into becoming an entrepreneur is scary,” expresses Heather, “but if we didn’t try, we would’ve regretted it.” At the time, Heather was working for a local Transportation company. Her business partner and husband remembers feeling the same way about making the transition to leave his construction job. He credits Heather for being the risk-taker because while they both had doubts about starting the business, it was her who propelled them forward.
The beginning of their journey happened quite organically. After completing their first table, they posted it online to see if someone would buy it. Sure enough, they got their first order. The rush they felt from that initial sale was enough to redirect them. Heather and Jay continued to work full-time and then came home and pursued their new passion. Toiling away first in their basement, then in their garage, they now rent a 2,500-square-foot shop on Pack Road to accommodate their growing business.
When the couple started out, they wanted to perfect the craft and learn the ins and outs of owning and growing a business. So when clients requested specific items, they would make them at cost. Like any new endeavor, Heather and Jay have faced trials and errors, making their fair share of mistakes. “But the universe has put the right people in our path to teach us the right things,” Jay gratefully beams. They are quite comfortable with their journey, touting advice another woodworker offered: “if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not learning.” The words of wisdom seem to be an embodiment of the wood they use. Instead of sanding out the scars from the battles, they embrace them and put them on display for the world to see. That is true beauty.
A decision the couple did not stumble upon, however, was having Heather be the face of the business. Working in one male-dominated industry and stepping into another, Heather wants to empower her two daughters and other women by combatting the stereotypical views of gender roles. Katelyn, her six-year-old daughter, watches her mom labour in the workshop alongside the men, setting a strong example for her and other young, impressionable girls. It seems to be rubbing off as Katelyn asserts, “I want to make tables like mommy and paint them pink.”
From a brief conversation with Heather and Jay, it is abundantly clear how much they enjoy the connections they make with their clients. They recognize that it was not just their hard work that fueled the transition, it was also their “clients who gave [them] opportunities because [their] business grew from word of mouth.” They speak about how they, “get so close with [their] clients that many times [they] become friends.” After hearing how personalized the process is, it is no wonder their circle of trust continues to expand.
The process from start to finish takes about 4-6 weeks. Beginning with the design, Heather, Jay and the client have a back and forth discussing the style, type of wood and desired colour. Next, an in-home consultation occurs to perform measurements to ensure their work matches the décor and will fit the space.
Their clients are not the only new friends that Heather and Jay have made since starting out this venture. The woodworking community has been inclusive, helpful and supportive. When speaking about their fellow woodworkers, Heather admiringly reveals, “there’s enough for everyone; no one is greedy. We are grateful to work together. We operate on gratitude and it seems to be more than enough.” The collaborative spirit also adds to the unique customization of their work. Many times, Heather and Jay work with their clients to design a custom metal base that is then made by local metal fabricator Gary Shipman, and a metal Rustix tag, made by a local jeweler, discretely brands the piece.
If you are not quite ready to invest in a custom table, you can check out Rustix craftsmanship at Icarus Resto Bar on Richmond Street, which was recently renovated to include a thick spalted maple live-edge bar and straight-edge modern tables built by Heather and Jay. Their work is finished with a laser engraving of the Icarus logo done by Project Carve.
Heather and Jay have begun to focus on expanding into the commercial space, doing various workstations, entrance tables and conference tables, to name a few. Currently, they are working on a 20-foot-long conference table for a local manufacturing facility complete with imbedded microphones and an electronics trough. It is a huge challenge, but they are certainly up for it. Don’t ever expect these two to conform to the norm, however. Their work will always have an artistic flair with a non-traditional style to keep the uniqueness of the design.
Clearly, for Heather and Jay the risk was worth was it. “I remember counting down the hours at my old job, but now we have to set limits to stop,” explains Jay. When asked what their greatest accomplishment is, Heather simply says, “having the guts to take a risk on yourself and bring your vision to life.” Spoken like a true entrepreneur.
Written by Sarah Jones