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Va. Beach woman takes tablescapes to new level [The Virginian-Pilot]
[November 21, 2012]

Va. Beach woman takes tablescapes to new level [The Virginian-Pilot]

(Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 21--Shawna Hardy won't start this holiday season rooting around the attic for baubles and bows. Instead, she'll head out to her sun porch, strap on goggles and fire up her scroll saw.

Or maybe her table saw. Or reciprocating saw. Or drill press.

"That's my newest baby," said the Virginia Beach woman, petite and smiling, standing beside the hulking machine that's taller than she.

Hardy, owner and sole craftsman at Wood If I Could, designs, builds, rents and sells sturdy, multi-tiered food stands, pieces that can transform a holiday table or buffet from meh to marvelous.

"I like layers and levels and different heights," she said.

Rather than a flat expanse of plates and platters, she prefers adding height, which "draws the eye and makes everything pop." Foods displayed that way have added appeal. Take a pumpkin pie: Viewed from above, it's a simple brown circle. But closer to eye level, the fluting of the crust provides more interest -- and the pie itself exudes perhaps a tantalizing smell.

But height isn't all that matters.

Depending on the occasion, Hardy might use columns of wood to attach the tiers. Or she might use tall glass cylinders filled with water and shimmering, waterproof lights.

Her simple designs start at $40 to buy. Rentals, including delivery and setup, are $100 and up.

Hardy traces her artistic endeavors to childhood, when she designed her mother's elementary school classroom bulletin board displays. She studied physics and archaeology at the College of William and Mary and graduated, despite being diagnosed with lupus.

Hardy returned to school to study drafting and design at Tidewater Community College. She hopes her new business will allow her to get off disability. Plus, it's work she loves.

Each design starts at the computer, where Hardy uses AutoCAD engineering software to turn clients' ideas into blueprints for sturdy table decor.

Then, the self-taught woodsmith gets to work in the sun room, which consumes more than half of the porch. Some days, she can hardly wait for sunrise so that she can get to work.

Hardy's favorite raw materials are planks of poplar, birch and pine; the smell, the feel and the patterns enchant her. She pulls a piece of poplar from a stash of boards and dowels wedged between the drill press and some storage containers. Streaks of charcoal run through toast-colored wood.

She might embed tiles, or glass beads or crushed stone, into square or circular tiers of wood. She might use glass or mirrors. Or she might vary the grain of the wood.

Hardy did just that for a cake stand she recently finished for a military retirement party. The glass-sided wooden box, with boards set flush and sanded smooth, was designed to hold the military man's hat and later serve as a permanent display.

One constant is that all of her tabletop displays can be broken down flat for storage.

"I love tools; I can't explain it," she said. "When something revs up, you've got the power." Lorraine Eaton, 757-446-2697, Check out Lorraine's blog at ___ (c)2012 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) Visit The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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