We all know it when we see it. The piece that’s so much more than just a functional object. It’s truly a work of art. What makes some objects so distinct from the everyday items that we take for granted?
It’s the artisans behind the work – dedicated craftsmen and -women who have a passion for beauty, form, and function and the unique ability to balance and meld these into exquisite works of art that stand the test of time.
Photo: WF Marion Creative
Five years ago, Chris Williams was a member of a successful wealth management firm, but his off-hours were spent “hobbying around” with knife making. “Money management was fun, but making knives is way more fun,” he said.
Williams sold his first knife to a buddy who bought it for $20 when the two were shrimping together. Now his knives fetch upward of $300, and he has made more than 2,000 of them. Today his company, Williams Knife, employs two full-time workers. The company is based in Johns Island, South Carolina.
Each knife is custom made and takes at least 60 hours to create. Wait time for a knife can run anywhere from a few months to a full year. This labor-intensive process is a labor of love for Williams.
Photos: Williams Knife Co.
“I like every part of it from sourcing exotic woods to finding local bones for the inlay to curing the wood to honing the edge to hand sanding the piece,” he related. “Sometimes people say my knives are too pretty to use, but making them pretty is the easy part. Making them useful is what takes the work.” For instance, it took Williams 14 years to master the proper engineering of an oyster knife.
Most of the company’s product line is dedicated to fishing and hunting, but Williams is always looking for new challenges. Recently, he trailed chefs in Charleston, the culinary capital of the South, to learn how they used their knives so he could develop a chef’s line. It proved popular enough to spur a home cooking line of knives that recently debuted.
Williams is adamant that the Internet has made it possible for an artisan like himself to make a living. “There have been thousands of great knife makers throughout the years, but they couldn’t reach a customer base the way we can now,” he said. “I have customers all over the world.”
Photos: Williams Knife Co.
He also has some high-profile clients, including Davis Love III, the Ryder Cup® captain, who last year asked Williams to make 75 knives for golfers and celebrity friends like Michael Jordan and Justin Timberlake.
Williams understands the demand for his work. “When I buy things myself, I do tons of research because I want to buy something of quality that also has a person and a story behind it,” he said.