Andy Cooper’s Authentic, Artful Furnishings
Story by Frances Figart | Photos by Joye Ardyn Durham
One of Andy Cooper’s favorite recent memories is announcing to his friends in Michigan, “I’m moving to the mountains to become an artist!” The part about “becoming” wasn’t really accurate, however. Cooper has worked in one form of art or another most of his life.
Born and raised in metro Detroit, he was one of six kids in a working class family. The only subjects he liked in school were shop and art. “I’ve always spent every chance I could get in the woods,” he says. “It was, and is, the only truly peaceful place for me.”
In his early 20s, Cooper began what would become a 13-year career as a jeweler. “I loved that job until I was moved up to manager and no longer got my hands dirty, creating,” he says. He then started a remodeling enterprise, ARC Services, Inc., which has been his bread and butter for the past 15 years, creating beautiful spaces with architectural components.
About four years ago, he chanced to visit Western North Carolina and, like many artists, fell in love with the climate—both literally and figuratively. “When I arrived in Asheville, I was blown away by the amount of creative people here,” he says. “Many inspired me to create what I really wanted to create—to be the most authentic version of me, ever.”
That’s when he announced to his friends he was moving, which included relocating ARC Services and his client base. Working out of a studio in West Asheville, a stone’s throw from the French Broad River, he also began to give wings to his passion—creating what he describes as a combination of functional art and artful furnishings.
“I hate seeing things go to waste,” he says. “I try to use salvaged materials—wood slabs, lumber, stumps, steel, cast iron manhole-cover rims, I-beams, industrial scrap, forced rusty patinas, paint and glass—saving them from landfills, burn piles or metal refineries.”
Before long, Cooper met other artists, among them mosaic maker Shelley Schenker, who invited him to be a part of her new gallery and artist cooperative, Eco-Depot Marketplace, which opened this summer.
“Andy is a ball of energy and his eyes light up as he talks about his pieces,” says Schenker, who is currently seeking more artists to join her community space. “His brain must work at warp speed because he’s always thinking about ten projects at one time.”
Cooper admits to being constantly on the go. “I’m always thinking: ‘What can I make next?’ (Everything I have ever built has left me both satisfied and bothered that I didn’t do a perfect job.) I am, however, trying to take more time to slow down and get out in the forest to reground and recharge.”
He chooses “odd, dramatic, weird and pretty pieces of wood” as the foundation for most of his creations. “I’ve always enjoyed creating beautiful, interesting, functional things with wood,” he says, “but not so long ago I learned I really enjoy working with metal. Sometimes I find a piece of metal that I’m just crazy about and it becomes the center of my inspiration.”
Dusty, scuffed and burned, sometimes fatigued and sore after hours of design, layout, prep, cutting, sanding, detailing or finishing, Cooper says he constantly loses track of time when creating and that’s how he knows he’s doing what he loves.
“I am at my absolute best when I’m creating freely,” he says. “I feel purposeful, relevant. The freedom is like nothing else I’ve experienced. Each piece I build has a new lesson for me. And I’m just getting going!”
See Andy Cooper’s work at Eco-Depot Marketplace, 408 Depot Street, #100. Eco-Depot will participate in the River Arts District Studio Stroll November 12–13 and will hold a grand opening event Wednesday, December 7, from 4–7 p.m. Learn more at ecodepotmarketplace.com.