Smithville’s Joseph Watson carries on family tradition with custom woodworking business

By Mary Bernard

Like a cherished piece of furniture passed down through the generations, Joseph Watson’s passion for woodworking comes from his dad. Growing up by his father’s side in the family-run business, Watson has been working with wood since he was a young boy.

“I was probably 10 or 11 when I really started paying attention to it and really knew that was what I wanted to do,” Watson says.

Since 2006, Watson has been in business for himself with Watson Woodcraft in Smithville, Tenn. Watson Woodcraft today produces customized, artisan pieces, unique works of craftsmanship and design, the result of decades of learning and apprenticeship. He caters to a higher-end, luxury market — clients who have the financial means to spend thousands of dollars on one chair or up to $20K on a built-in library.

No two pieces leaving Watson’s shop are alike. Each is crafted specifically for its buyer, pairing the client’s ideas with Watson’s gift for bringing that vision to life. This process of creating something from nothing is the most gratifying aspect of Watson’s job.

“Making something from scratch is very inspiring. My ability to … help someone realize their vision and design it for them sets us apart,” Watson says. “I just love being out … in the shop, designing and building and shaping the wood, drawing the design. That’s what I enjoy.”

Since childhood, Watson has immersed himself in the functional art and creative expression of woodworking. “Since I was 11 years old, I’ve been reading everything I could get my hands on about design,” he says. He describes his design style as “classic blended with modern” and says he finds inspiration when he reaches out to other creative types.

“I enjoy interacting with other artists, talking with them. That definitely inspires me. If I find that I’m feeling a little uninspired, … [I will] … get out of the shop and meet some other people, [and] it will help get my creativity going again,” Watson says.

Like his father before him, Watson has plans to pass on the family business to his own offspring. Two of his four sons are approaching the right age to begin learning woodworking soon. His future plans for Watson Woodcraft rest with the younger Watsons as they carry on the family’s legacy.

“We want to keep it family-focused and family-friendly,” Watson says. “I’ve got two boys coming up. They do have a real interest in woodworking. Hopefully, they’ll want to help me.”