Customer, Sarah Driggers, endorsement
Q. How did you and your husband hear about his work?
A. "We all met each other in high school and managed to keep in touch over the years. David is a good friend of ours. He told us about the type of work he was doing, so we asked him to customize a piece for us. It’s like a long table that goes behind our couch. We’re really excited about it. I like it a lot. It’s got that natural, unique industrial look."
Q. What do you find more impressive about his work?
A. "I think he dedicates a lot of time and effort into creating it, so nothing goes undone, even the smallest little details. If there’s a small crack in the wood, he would actually hand-fill it with resin to make it one solid piece. He uses an intensive amount of detail in his work. Regardless of the amount of time it will take and the amount of hard work that it’ll cost him, he puts it into it to make it like perfect."
Q. What do you see in the future for his work?
A. "He has a pretty good niche for it because he’s continuing to learn. He has welding. But he’s continuing to learn through woodwork and he’s hoping to seek out work with upholstery and everything like that. So, I think if he were to go into it full-time and actually step away from the position that he has right now, that he could be pretty big. I mean, he’s taking natural, local elements and creating pretty awesome pieces, in my opinion. So, I think he’ll go places if he dedicates to that."
Q. What do you think about having this talent in Liberty County?
A. "I think it’s great. I feel like the one thing that Liberty County doesn’t really have enough of is someone local that does something original. We have a lot of large-scale businesses that come in to town, like chain stores and everything. But there aren’t really that many big, local things, so I think it’s really important. I think it’s really important for people that live here to establish themselves and create some form of art that actually derived from this area and not have to branch out."
Treasured tables, furniture and other pieces start off as rough pieces of old wood before David Betts puts his hand to it in his Midway shop. But Betts insists he isn’t doing anything special.
"Everybody’s like, ‘Oh, you’re an artist,’ and I’m like, ‘No, I’m definitely not an artist,’" Betts said. "This is what I enjoy. Find what you enjoy. Pursue it. Period. If you enjoy doing it, pursue it and you’ll be good at it."
In his opinion, everyone can refine a skill and be creative.
"Life is art, no matter how you look at it," he said. "You’re always creating. No matter what you do. If you’re at work, you create friendships. You create connections."
A budding, ‘cool’ passion
Betts couldn’t quite pinpoint the source of his creativity.
"I had Legos as a kid and was always building stuff," he suggested with a laugh. "I always tinkered with stuff and it’s cool seeing something and go, ‘What can I make out of that?’"
He works with a lot of wood, but also welds and does blacksmithing.
Unwanted materials are his favorite. He also has a personal commitment to recycling or reusing objects that may have wound up in a landfill, otherwise.
"You can’t get this from Walmart," Betts said, pointing to some wood propped up against the wall.
The wood is from a building built in the late 1800s that was set to be bulldozed, according to Betts.
He said, "You can see where the saw was round and they don’t have saws like that anymore … and it’s heart pine. You can’t get heart pine anymore."
Of all his supporters, Betts said his dad is his biggest fan. He also credits family for igniting his passion.
"I have an uncle that’s a really good woodworker in Tennessee, and I was always around it as a kid. Seeing it, I was like, ‘This stuff’s cool,’" he said.
‘Learning as I go’
The Liberty County High School graduate took shop classes and graduated with a welding degree from Savannah Technical College. But he said he’s picked up a lot just from reading.
Unlike his peers, Betts skips video games and TV to get better. He also sought out more established industry professionals, like Savannah blacksmith, historian, and artist Gilbert Walker, Jr.
"If you listen, people will teach you stuff," Betts said. "So, I’m just learning as I go."
Betts is a welder on Hunter Army Airfield. The aim is to eventually get all the specialty tools he needs and turn his hobby into his main job.
"I would like to start selling my stuff. Most of it has been for friends and family, right now," he said.
With an eclectic style all on his own, Betts simultaneously seeks to preserve history and the environment in his work. He wants to keep his work and working relationships local versus shipping from China or even across the country in an effort to be energy-efficient.
Being environmentally responsible is just something his parents taught him, Betts explained.
"We consume so many resources, like, so many resources," he said. "Why go out and kill a tree when you can get something that’s already down?"
A set of wood hairpin bar stools made as a Christmas gift for his mother is his proudest project.
"I was just looking at them. I was like these are weird pieces of wood. They’re hard to sell. It’s like, that would be a cool bar stool, so just go from there," Betts explained.
Onward and upward
Growing up, the 25-year-old didn’t exactly know what he wanted to do, but he is pleased about where things are heading. His grandmother has been another key role model encouraging him to entrepreneurship.
"We’re fed and told this is what you need to be this is what you need to do. You need to have a 9 to 5. You need to be a big boy. You need to be an adult. This is what you need to do as an adult," he said. "Maybe I want to play with wood and weld stuff, and it’s all right."
"I’m very optimistic big things will come," Betts added. "It would be cool to get a contract from a restaurant like, ‘Would you come and do all our tables and chairs?’"
Right now, he is just relying on word of mouth and his work’s quality.
"I’m not too stressed about the ins and outs," Betts said. "If it makes me a million bucks, cool. If it doesn’t, I enjoy doing it."
That joy in work sometimes keeps him in his shop until 3 or 4 a.m.
"I think work should be entertaining," Betts explained. "There are so many people who are so miserable right now doing what they’re doing because they’re not doing something they enjoy."
Though he has traveled throughout the country, Betts called Liberty County "so rich in culture and diversity."
"It’s just an amazing place … that’s what’s cool about Liberty County. We make things work around here," Betts said, pointing to the crabbers near Isle of Wight. "You meet the most interesting people and you can’t stereotype someone here, which is fun."