Ken Hull is an artist through and through.
From elaborate paintings, to two published books, to his Boalsburg log house that he designed and helped build, Hull devotes much of his life to creating. He recently moved onto his newest craft — using re-purposed materials to transform old doors into functioning tables.
In 2009, Hull put together his first door-to-table project for a girlfriend haphazardly, simply because she was in need of a table. But he began without much knowledge of the detail and technique needed to make something durable.
“I had this old door that I had found in a salvage yard years ago and I always thought I’d like to do something with it, but I didn’t know what,” Hull said. “You know the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention, so I made her this table and it was great, but it was really poorly built. I didn’t know what I was doing.”
This winter, Hull decided to return to the table and improve its design. In need of a workshop, he reached out and ended up with more than he expected.
A friend of a friend, Ted Witt, provided Hull with not only a workspace, but also tools and a mentorship.
“Ted helped me develop how I wanted to redesign my first table,” Hull said. “I built that first one under his guidance as a prototype, and then I built a second one kind of on my own, with his guidance, but not so much hands-on. Once I did that, I was good to kind of leave the nest and go out on my own.”
Hull’s third table was an unexpected project that turned out to be a challenging, yet deeply meaningful work of art.
The daughter of a College Heights woman, Marilyn Kramer-Haugh, contacted Hull after seeing photos of his work on his Facebook page. The woman, Marilyn, had saved a window from her grandfather’s house since the 1940s and kept it ever since, waiting for something special to come of it.
Nearly 70 years later, the opportunity arose.
“When I saw the window, I knew I had to do something with it,” Hull said. “There were a lot of challenges along the way, but in the end it really looked great.
“I know that Marilyn was just really emotionally affected when I delivered that coffee table. All those childhood memories, all the years of carrying the window around with her, all came together with this beautiful table that she can now have in her living room. I’ve said this through my whole career, that if I can move someone emotionally with what I do, that is an amazing achievement.”
The first table sold for $750, and the commissioned coffee table for $500. The remaining table is $800 and the matching bench is $125, or $150 if sold separately.
“Like my art, I imagine my prices will increase with time, skill, notoriety and demand,” Hull said.
Hull calls his business Doors to Tables. His next project is a high top table made out of an arched church window. He expects the project to take longer than his usual couple weeks due to the thickness of the window frame, and because the broken glass panes need to be custom cut and replaced.
The future for Hull is undetermined, although he hopes to continue making his re-purposed crafts.
“I want to keep doing it, but it’s a little scary right now because I’ve only sold one, commissioned one, and then I have my second table still,” Hull said.
“I want to keep doing these for a while because I have all those materials in my barn that I really want to use, but if I’m not selling any, do I really want to keep making more? But I trust God that this is what I’m supposed to be doing and I just have to trust, follow the path and not give up.”
Despite the challenges of living the uncertain, ever-changing life of an artist, Hull sees the beauty in the independent lifestyle.
“An art mentor said it well to me one day, ‘It’s a hell of a way to make a living, but it’s a great life,’ ” Hull said. “It’s hard to not know if you’re going to make any money at the end of the month, but the lifestyle is incredible. I’ve been to Europe 13 times with my art and roamed around for five weeks in Italy doing nothing but painting cats. It’s just amazing.”