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Meet Liz Karney of Sticks & Bricks in Northampton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Liz Karney.

Liz, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I love building things and solving problems. And I love design. In my late 20’s, I decided to try and make a career of it. I worked as a carpenter’s apprentice renovating his house and also doing home repair with some very talented people. I found myself using my new skills to build furniture for my family and friends in the evenings and weekends. I loved it! In 2008, the storefront on Market St. became available and I decided to give a go at having my own shop. I set up the back of the space as a workshop and invited other makers to sell their work in the retail store in front. Through the years, my skills and aesthetic have changed and evolved and the store has changed with me. Today, it is a specially curated showroom that highlights things I love or have made. I feel so lucky I get to spend my days here.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Of course, running a small business has been full of obstacles but I’d say the thing, I have had to work on most consistently – and there is still lots of room for improvement – is learning to trust my inner voice and be patient. The retail world is full of trends and slow seasons and it can be challenging not to feel like I’m making huge mistakes all the time. Those ups and downs still exist, but they are not as dramatic as they once were. (Hallelujah!)

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Sticks & Bricks – what should we know?
I specialize in highlighting beauty in unconventional ways. I love using old elements to make something new and fresh. I love using the imperfections to elevate the beauty in something instead of seeing it as a flaw.

I make furniture inspired by a wide variety of miscellaneous objects. Sometimes they sit in my studio for years before they turn into something. Sometimes, they make it right onto the showroom floor. I also make custom furniture. I’ll walk with a client through the workshop looking for something to spark their imagination or I’ll take something sentimental and give it fresh function or I’ll build something with new materials taking care at each stage to carefully balance form and function.

This is also true in my design work. I love to help clients use old and new objects and furniture to create a space that feels simple, honest, functional and beautiful.

But in the end, the thing I’m most proud of is inspiring people to look at the world around them with fresh eyes. To look at old junk in new ways, to think about how you can change your own space and life with the things around you instead of buying cheap, poorly made furniture that was never built to last.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Without my husband and life partner none of this would be. He has encouraged me to try things and trust myself. He is a living example of these qualities. He loves to dream and imagine with me, and then flip it around and get seriously practical!

I also owe a big thanks to Justin Brown. He came on as a part time employee when I had barely been open for two years. It quickly became apparent he was meant to be more of a business partner. We shared the workshop and showroom for 6 years and I learned so much about design and creativity and attention to detail from him. I’m so excited for him to have moved on to his own store, but I sure do miss our regular creative work conversations!

I’m also grateful to my family. I come from a long line of people who love to take things apart and figure out how they work. I know I get my passion for building and problem solving from them.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Henry Amistadi, Cara Totman

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