Creative Geniuses: Clark's Fabrication
This metro Detroit team is redefining what it means to run a modern day fabrication shop.
If you’re looking for a story of a side gig that turned into a booming business, look no further than Clark’s Fabrication. Located in Madison Heights, Mich., (just a few miles north of Detroit) the husband and wife team of Kymm and Crosby Clark have a bustling fabrication shop creating pieces for just about any application. As the two expand their team and look toward exciting new projects in the future, learn more about how these creative geniuses got their start and are changing the way we think of what a fabrication shop should be.
Tell us about Clark’s Fabrication.
We started making furniture and fixtures, mostly for residential clients out of our garage. Through word of mouth and social media, the demand for our work grew exponentially in a matter of months, and we were forced to make a choice: keep it going as a hobby and go back to work, or go full throttle and open up our own shop. Today we design and create furniture and fixtures for just about every kind of space you can think of.
What kind of products does the team create with Clark’s Fabrication?
Our current focus is on the design and build of furniture, fixtures and casework you might see in commercial, hospitality and residential spaces. We also reupholster and work on minor repairs of existing furniture.
How did the business get started?
Kymm: I was laid off in February of 2016. I was already working on side projects at home while caring for our youngest daughter. The more I shared pictures of what we were doing, the more people wanted to hire us to create things for them too. Crosby would come home after a 12-hour day and remove staples or do repairs so I could focus on getting more furniture in and out of the door throughout the week. It was less than a year before he would have to quit his job and come work with me full time. Five months after he came home, we were expanding into our brick and mortar.
Crosby: I've always been an entrepreneur at heart, and I have a passion for design build. Ever since I built my first motorcycle, I wanted to have my own fab shop. We saw there was a need for high quality work in the decor/furniture design space, saw what was being put out there, and thought we could definitely improve on it.
Kymm: Yeah, furniture and design is kind of where our skills finally met in the middle. We were able to pull together our skill sets to make great things as a team.
For someone who’s interested in the type of work that Clark’s Fabrication produces, how do you get started?
It's easiest to get a hold of us by phone or email; we’re also known to answer quotes directly through our social media on Facebook and Instagram. We are typically able to give clients quotes based on photos, images and measurements of what it is they want created, but for big jobs, like a complete design build, we meet with the client in their space, discuss what they want to accomplish and work closely with them to design their project.
What’s a typical day like at Clark’s Fabrication?
A day at Clark's Fabrication starts pretty early, sometimes as early as 4 a.m. We try to get the technical stuff out of the way first. We send 3-D design renderings to clients who need them, answer emails, prepare estimates, and then move on to organizing what projects will need to be completed and in what order. Because we work in so many different mediums, we have to plan out the order of work according to how efficiently it can be rotated and completed in the shop.
Tell us a little bit about the physical space that makes up Clark’s Fabrication.
We work out of a 4,000-square-foot shop that has four main areas of interest: woodworking, metalworking, upholstery and paint/stain. Our front office is where we do most of our computer work and has recently become home to our large-format vinyl cutter/T-shirt press. In the back we have a lounge area that is predominantly inhabited by our children who also spend most of their spare time hanging out with us at the shop. It's a good space for them to do homework, watch TV or play with each other. It is not totally uncommon to see them working on projects of their own here too.
Of the projects the company has taken on so far, what have been some of the favorites? What made them so exciting?
We really love working with restaurants, typically when what we are making is impacted by our own design. We love working with five / eighths architecture on their projects, and most recently, we have been working with Regan Bloom of Toast, a group of restaurants in metro Detroit. She has restaurants in Ferndale and Birmingham. This project started small scale and has grown over the past few months from us working on their seating to us collaborating on design for their new restaurant expansion. It's amazing to have such a huge impact on the design of a space and walk in and be proud to know we created something that looks amazing that other people can enjoy.
When people think of fabrication, what usually comes to mind?
Crosby: I think when people hear "fabrication," it narrows it down to a pretty industrial practice. I think the word itself sounds pretty heavy. They probably see a dark shop with a bunch of dudes, all hazy and smoky from torches and what not. I think designing is just as much a part of the fabrication process as building the product itself. For us, fabrication is taking an idea and making it into a literal reality.
What would a dream project look like for the Clark’s Fabrication team?
To design and fabricate a look and feel of an entire space floor to ceiling. To walk in and see that everything in sight is something we created.
What’s next for Clark’s Fabrication? What should we be on the lookout for?
Crosby: Developing closer relationships with local designers, artists and architects. Building out more commercial spaces. Broadening our capabilities and collaborating more with other artists and craftsmen.
Kymm: We are growing fast. We just hired our first employee, Justin Phipps. He is an amazing artist and craftsman. He brings a lot of similar skills to the table and has an engineering mind, which helps with problem solving around the shop and in the field. We are hoping to grow by more team members before spring and add on to our existing services by bringing in more people with specialized skills.
Looking for more inspiration about taking your own idea for a hands-on business to the next level? Make sure to check out Kymm’s podcast, They Started in Their Garage.