Southern Made: Into the woods


Birmingham-based Alabama Sawyer transforms fallen trees and reclaimed materials into modern tables and home accessories.

The company: Alabama Sawyer, founded in Birmingham in 2015, makes furniture, including solid wood tabletops, made to specifications, as well as other goods from urban timber.

The owners: Cliff and Leigh Spencer. Cliff, an Alabama native who graduated from Rhodes College in Tennessee, worked as a master craftsman in New York City and on set designs in Los Angeles, where he ran Cliff Spencer Furniture Maker, a custom cabinetry and furniture business, before returning to his hometown. Leigh, a California native and award-winning graphic designer, earned degrees from the University of California, Santa Barbara, as well as Otis College.

Big break: After Cliff spoke at Design Week Birmingham in 2014, the couple decided to launch Alabama Sawyer and eventually move with their two children to Birmingham.

What’s popular: The best-selling Noaway Countertop Comport Bin in walnut and magnolia ($175). Also the Sputnik tables ($300 to $500) and dining tables. Based on wood species and base selection, an 8-foot-by-3.5-foot dining table ranges from $3,800 to $9,500.

Other favorites: Trays in walnut, oak and magnolia ($275 to $350).

Fun (or unusual) request: A 26-foot trapezoidal conference table for a company in Alpharetta. The solid walnut table required 18 slabs of wood. It had to be delivered in six pieces to get it up the elevator.

Claim to fame: Overall winner in Garden & Gun magazine’s 2017 “Made in the South” awards.

Where to Smaller products are also sold on, and


Atlanta wood artist Jane Burke creates “marquetry” pictures using wood veneers, one little piece at a time.

What is marquetry: The art of cutting and combining word veneers of different species and colors to create pictures.

The artist: Burke was born and grew up in South Africa. Her mother is an artist who encouraged her to explore many art forms and her grandfather introduced her to woodworking. She was first introduced to marquetry in 1993 while living in Paraguay. In 1996, she came to the United States. Burke lives and works out of her home studio in Berkeley Lake.

What’s popular: Images of hummingbirds, butterflies and dragonflies. Also birds, dogwood flowers and landscapes. Framed pictures of various sizes range from $170 to $400. Larger, more intricate pieces are about $800.

Other favorites: A series of little (18 inches by 9 inches) sailboat pictures ($220). Burke and her husband, Robert, race sailboats at Lake Lanier Sailing Club.

Claim to fame: In 2016, won “Best in Show” at the Brookhaven Arts Festival. Also earned the title of Master Woodworker because of winning several first places for her furniture and boxes.

Where to and In Atlanta, at several upcoming festivals, including the Gibbs Garden Arts Festival (May 19- 20).


After Steve Noggle discovered woodturning, the North Carolina craftsman turned a favorite pastime into a full-time passion.

The artist: Noggle was interested in trees and wood long before he graduated with a forestry degree from Louisiana State University in 1976. After a few years as a timber cruiser in the Pacific Northwest, Noggle returned to his home state, where he spent 25 years as an engineer in the furniture industry. He left to pursue his “turning” craft and has a workshop behind his house in Morganton, N.C.

The materials: Primarily local domestic hardwoods such as maple, cherry and walnut. But also exotic burl wood from Australia, Africa and South America.

The goods: Lathe-turned bowls and vessels that include hollow forms and natural-edge pieces.

What’s popular: Ambrosia maple salad bowls ($195 to $295). Also natural-edge bowls, particularly out of any burl woods, such as maple burl, cherry burl and eucalyptus burl ($100 to $1,000).

Where to buy: At the Ariel Gallery ( in downtown Asheville, N.C. Also at Artisphere (May 11-13) in Greenville, S.C. To see Noggle’s work, visit

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Living

11 Atlanta date ideas that will wow for less than $30
11 Atlanta date ideas that will wow for less than $30

While it's swell to indulge in a lavish evening out every now and then, there are plenty of Atlanta date ideas that are heavy on fun and light on your wallet. Whether you're trying to liven up your regular date night or impress a first date for less, you'll spend $30 or less for the hip yet affordable dates below. (Just remember to use any money saved...
Faith calendar

Cultural concert: The concert, Sankofa: A Salute to the Music of Black Composers, will showcase artful songs and spiritual arrangements of opera singers from the Atlanta Opera Chorus and Capital City Opera as well as music educators. The event will be a celebration of voice and heritage with a reception to follow. The performance will be...
Briefs: 94.9/The Bull’s morning producer Freckles leaves, former Star host Cassiday Proctor gives birth live on air
Briefs: 94.9/The Bull’s morning producer Freckles leaves, former Star host Cassiday Proctor gives birth live on air

Posted Friday, February 23, 2018 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog Freckles (real name Emily Raines) is leaving 94.9/The Bull after seven years as producer of the Jason Pullman and Kristen Gates morning show. She made the announcement today on air. Freckles grew up in Powder Springs and attended...
Teen Vogue columnist: Billy Graham was “evil”

Tributes have poured in from around the world in the days since the Rev. Billy Graham died, but a Teen Vogue columnist has blasted the evangelist in a series of tweets, including one describing him as “evil.” “The big news today is that Billy Graham was still alive this whole...
Daniela Vega makes ‘A Fantastic Woman’ truly lovely
Daniela Vega makes ‘A Fantastic Woman’ truly lovely

There’s an interaction in the middle of Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Lelio’s “A Fantastic Woman” that perfectly describes the film’s conflict and asserts its core thesis. Two women meet in a downtown Santiago parking garage to exchange the car of the recently deceased Orlando (Francisco Reyes). It’s the first meeting...
More Stories