ALGODONES — Where most people see a pile of firewood, local woodworker Andy Sanchez sees a beautiful piece of art waiting to be exposed.
In fact, Sanchez is so well-versed on seeing the beauty in old trunks and branches from different trees that he has amassed quite the pile on his estate at 4 Archibeque Drive in Algodones.
“I guess you can say it’s a family tradition,” he said while walking through his home adorned with handcrafted items from his shop.
Sanchez and his family specialize in joining wood with precious stones and metals to create one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture and art.
“You have to understand: We are artists first and second furniture-makers,” he said, pointing at a huge bird carved out of two pieces of wood and mounted in the foyer of his home.
Sanchez said his father used to make Santa Fe/Spanish colonial-style furniture, but none of it was for sale.
“He made it because the family needed it,” Sanchez said with a grin. “He created furniture out of necessity for our home.”
Sanchez said he learned how to use his father’s tools at a young age because the family was always adding onto the house as it grew.
“Both my mom and dad are artistic, and I like to think that they passed that on to me,” he said.
Although Sanchez has been working with wood his entire life, it wasn’t until the ’90s that he decided to create artistic furniture and put it up for sale.
“I remember putting a nice juniper table together back in the ’90s, which I knew was unique,” he said.
Sanchez said the man who sold the piece of juniper to him didn’t have the heart to chop it into firewood.
“Besides, if he chopped that juniper into firewood, it would’ve been, like, 60 bucks worth, and I saw great possibilities in that wood,” he said.
Sanchez said he gave the man $600 for the juniper and began working on it to make it into a table, which took him a while to finish.
“When we brought it to the furniture show, I knew it was special,” he said. “But when I told the other furniture makers what I wanted for it, $5,000, they said it wasn’t enough.”
Sanchez said he raised the price to $7,000, which was the most he had asked for any piece of his furniture at that time.
“Sure enough, a guy came into the show and paid me cash for the table,” he said. “I remember we didn’t have a briefcase or a bag or anything and this guy paid us $7,000 in 20s. It looked like a million dollars all spread out.”
Sanchez said his wife put the money in her crochet bag, which she kept in her lap in the front seat all the way home.
“I was afraid if we got pulled over, the cops would think we were drug dealers,” he said with a smile. “But I knew at that point I could do this and make a good living out of it.”
Sanchez said he made two more tables based on that first one for two other clients who were impressed with his work.
Soon after his success, a silversmith from Africa asked Sanchez if he would like to display his furniture and art in England.
“He really liked my work, and he has a showroom in London where my work is shown,” Sanchez said. “The queen of England has sat and had tea at one of my tables, and Juan Carlos I, (former) King of Spain, has also sat at one of my tables.”
Sanchez said when he sells his work, he later finds out the buyer was a person of note. Recently, he sold a table to British actor John Cleese.
“I don’t pay attention to that stuff, really,” he said. “As soon as I am done with one piece, I am already thinking about getting started on my next project.”
Sanchez said he and his team, which includes his sons, have also created furniture for an entire home.
“I feel incredibly blessed to do the work I enjoy and love,” he said. “I always look at God’s nature and try and see what else can be made out of it.”
For more info on Sanchez’s work, go to andysanchez.com.