Transforming wood into functional works of art

By Michael Kinney

In the middle of the offices of Marking Tree Design sits a large imposing river table. It’s made from the lumber of an old Black Walnut tree with green glass filling in the center space left by removing the soft inner wood.  When you see it, you immediately feel the history that comes with it.

Zachary True Hammack, who runs Marking Tree Design, says that the table is one of his favorite pieces, not only because of how it looks, but also because of the story of where the wood came from.

All pieces at Marking Tree Design are hand crafted to near perfection before being put on the showroom floor.

“River tables are hugely popular all over the world,” said Hammack. “Our use of the handmade fused glass for the river makes it one of the few pieces, in all my years of creating various forms of art, that I believe is a completely original creation. It’s made of Black Walnut, which is our favorite indigenous species of North America.” 

Hammack created Marking Tree Design with a goal of making sure each object he worked on and sold had a story to share was just as important as making the piece distinct and unique.

At Marking Tree Design (1615 N. Portland Ave, Oklahoma City), Hammack creates stunning handmade furniture and art for residential or commercial use, pieces that can anchor an entire room or add flair to others.

“We aim to produce modern, bold, functional art in the form of furniture,” Hammack said. “We create our own Elemental Contemporary line using rare, beautiful woods, resin, glass, and steel. Our design team will also work with you to customize or sell you the raw material to make your own imaginings come to life.”

Yet, this was not the path Hammack saw himself on as an art student at the University of Oregon. At that time his main artistic outlets were painting and graphic design. But after he graduated from Oregon and returned back to his home state of Oklahoma, he rejoined his father, Garland True Hammack Jr., at Arrowhead Lumber – the same business he worked at as a kid for $9 an hour.

“I moved back here and worked in the lumberyard again for a little while,” Hammack said. “He moved me up to sales a couple of years later, which was interesting. The whole time I was just like, ‘can I do something creative?’” Growing stifled in his role as a salesman, Hammack and his father decided to find a better outlet for his artistic nature and creativity. “I was an art major. I have been painting, doing graphic design. Building is something I’ve always had and materials have always been around me,” Hammack said. “So my dad and I just kind of said let’s do something else, and let’s do something that is more fun. Something that doesn’t have as much stress as the wholesale lumber business.”

That was the genesis of Marking Tree Design, which takes its name from a form of Native American technology that marked where water was located along the Trail of Tears. Taking the elder Hammack’s resources and knowledge of all things lumber and allowing the younger Hammack to pour his talent into, it they created something special.

“Everything just seemed to fit. I am an artist, he was in the lumber business,” Hammock said. “This is a great marriage of that. Everything started to kind of line up.”

The new business also allowed the father and son to bond. “As we moved into this, it started to become a lot more of a rewarding thing for us. We got to work together in a less stressful environment,” Hammack said. “I got to be where I excel. I don’t excel in the lumber type of thing. I excel in being able to create and figure out ways to push the envelope with art. That’s what I’ve been thankful to have.”

It takes four to six weeks to complete most projects at Marking Tree Design. According to Hammack, they have been able to keep a full schedule mostly by word of mouth. “People come in and ask, ‘What can you do?’ There’s nothing that we can’t do or can’t get done,” Hammack said. “We feel pretty confident that we have a little niche that we’re going to stay in. We don’t seem like we’re going to go anywhere.”

Michael Kinney Media

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