Hanson’s work has become a fixture in island homes
Old wood has stories to tell and secrets to share. It has character that can be carved into a one-of-a-kind table, mantle, headboard or whatever your imagination can conjure.
Wood is Scott Hanson’s chosen material, especially salvaged wood that has been revived from another life as a floor or an old chair or a heavy beam from a century-old structure. He likes to make pieces that inspire conversation.
“I like the feel of wood in my hands and I like to see what lies beneath the layers of paint: sometimes an inscription to a sweetheart — like ‘Pappy loves Velma,’” he said.
In fact, the only artistic activity he prefers more than woodworking is teaching other people how to take the old woods and create something new and beautiful.
“Different people come by my shop and they want to know ‘How do you do this?’ or ‘How can I make that?’ and I love showing them how to use the tools and how the wood changes in their hands,” he said.
His students include an emeritus professor from the University of Texas Medical Branch and a pair of preschool artists who painted fish with teddy bear faces on old planks, among many more.
Hanson is best known as co-owner and operator of Antique Warehouse, 423 25th St. in downtown Galveston, with his wife and partner, Holly. Yet, he makes 100 or more pieces of commissioned furniture each year. He’s been recreating new pieces from rescued wood for about 15 years.
“Sometimes, I find a new use for an old piece,” he said. “I found a baby grand piano that was ruined in Hurricane Ike. I shortened the legs, refinished the body, and it made a beautiful coffee table.”
His tables, chairs, cupboards and mantles are a fixture in many island homes, in Houston and even internationally.
“A pair of scientists at the medical branch were here from Sweden for several years and they asked me to make a table for them,” Hanson said. “It was made from old ceiling joists from the 1850s and it turned out beautifully. When they left Galveston, they shipped the table to Sweden. They told me that there aren’t any tables like this one in their country, and they wouldn’t leave it behind.”
On any given day, customers find Hanson in the store or his shop next door dressed in a floral shirt and cargo shorts. He has a boyish charm that belies his age and he speaks with great enthusiasm to everyone.
That’s just who he is. Hanson takes the time to talk. He always has a good story to tell or something amazing to show. He is kind to those who ask for his help and he is endlessly cheerful.
Born in Minneapolis, Minn., Hanson and his sister were raised by their mother.
Wild and restless at age 18, he left home and took a bus to Kansas City, Mo., because it was the first one leaving town. He worked in construction and unloading melon trucks, and later, he hawked vegetables at the farmers market. In time, he drifted to California, where he worked with his uncle, Jeffery Laudenslager, building huge kinetic sculptures. When he moved to Houston, he worked for John Harvath, an antiques dealer.
Hanson made his unlikely debut in Galveston in 1982.
He worked in construction, but always took time for glass sculpting, glass blowing, welding sculptures and building fantastical moving “beasts.”
“I came here just as they were bringing back Mardi Gras,” he said. “So, I created costumes for this grand ball at the San Luis. I used taxidermy animals to make half a dozen costumes and all of the animals had moving parts.”
Hanson walked away with the grand prize and also a feeling that he had found his place in the world.
“Galveston was my destiny,” he said.
In 1993, Hanson met his wife, Holly, on her birthday at the Stop-N-Go on Broadway.
It was serendipity.
“We were a great team from the start and she has always encouraged me,” he said. “She’s stable, I’m scattered. Her feet are on the ground, my head is in the clouds and it works.”
The couple started their own antique business on 24th and Mechanic streets downtown. In 2004, they bought the 423 25th St. building and moved Antique Warehouse to this location.
Hanson has always loved to go treasure hunting in Galveston alleys and garage sales for cast aside and broken furniture, signs or any item that catches his eye.
When a person seeks his custom work, he always sits down and listens closely as they describe what they want. Then, he asks whether they are interested in “inside the box or outside the box,” and he follows their lead as to function, color, shape, size and type of leg.
“There’s what they want; there’s what I can do; there’s all this wonderful wood; put it together and you’re bound to make some magic,” he said.