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Anne-Marie Haynes returns to her small-town Louisiana roots to bring out the artist inside her

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Writer: RACHEL ASHCRAFT / Courtesy Photos / Jan.-Feb. 2017

It’s a familiar story. A big-eyed, small-town girl full of anticipation, hope and big dreams journeys to the big city in search of independence and opportunity. Thanks to a little luck and perseverance, she succeeds and even finds true love. She stays in the city and lives happily ever after. The end.

Anne-Marie Haynes was that girl – almost.

She left her hometown at 17, chased her dreams, had jobs and successes and fell in love. But the story doesn’t end there. After 30 years of city life, Anne is reclaiming her small-town roots and childhood love of art.

Anne-Marie grew up with five siblings in Blanchard, Louisiana, a small town near Shreveport, where fireflies still exist and trees tower overhead against starry skies. Extended family and friends constantly came in and out of their large home, where the door was always open and meals were massive and mandatory.

In this upbringing, Anne’s parents, Ed and Madeline Antici, instilled in her the qualities of being loyal-to-the-core and steadfast and helped her develop into a tastefully wild artist.

Anne-Marie says that she’s always had an oddly mature style and even at a young age appreciated modern art. As soon as she graduated from high school, she enrolled in the Art Institute of Dallas.

“I felt a calling to do something creative,” Anne-Marie recalls. “I adored the big city and the energy and exposure (it provided) to so many things I’d never experienced.”

After stints working in Houston and Denver, Anne returned to Louisiana and earned a degree in business.

Later, while working in Chicago, she met what became the love of her life, Jack Haynes. Anne and Jack eventually moved to Dallas and Anne began spending spare time in a house built by her mother’s father on Lake Providence, in Louisiana.

While on the porch there, Anne-Marie was struck with one of her first wood art inspirations.

“Flipping through the pages of an old interior design magazine, I saw a wonderful, primitive French table,” recalls Anne-Marie. “I said to Momma and Daddy, ‘I’d like to make this.’”

Working with reclaimed cypress wood, they spent the next three days making a piece of furniture.

“I took the table back to Dallas with me and sold it within 30 minutes.”

From that moment, there was no turning back.

THE PROCESS

Working at the lake house, Anne-Marie crafts serving blocks and other pieces from the most beautiful and unusual slabs of wood she can find.

She named her business AMH & Company and promotes the pieces as “Reclaimed Wood Decor Designed with Uptown Flair & Southern Soul.”

She sells her work at SkyPony Gallery in Plano, Texas, and at festivals all over the region. Many of her customers are exposed to her work through the company website.

“I love it when a client calls and we can chat about exactly what they would like me to design for them, whether (it is) a console table or a serving board,” she says. “Collaborating with a client is the most enjoyable part of business. It’s such a joy to create unique merchandise but even more exciting when I see the joy it brings.”

Her bestsellers are wooden serving blocks. She refers to them as blocks, rather than boards, because they are quite large, up to 2 feet by 3 feet.

“From raw slab to refined serving board, our hands are physically on each piece for 20 hours, if not more,” Anne explains in a statement she posts at markets. “Every crevice, crack and imperfection is cleaned with dental instruments, then filled with impermeable, restaurant-grade filler.

“Our proprietary blend of organic beeswax and food-safe mineral oil is applied — with no less than six coats per side. Metal handles are hand-fashioned from retired wine barrel hoops. Antlers (used as handles) are gathered from environmentally conscious sources.”

Anne-Marie says what separates her products from others is the “20-plus hours that we literally have our hands on each piece.”

At a sawmill, she selects an entire slab of unfinished wood that is then kiln-dried.

“It doesn’t matter how old a piece of lumber is, once it’s sanded, the grain opens up and the potential for infestation and/or warping, is high. Wood is a living part of nature and unless petrified, it will always move. I learned this the hard way!”

After selecting wood, Anne decides where the cuts are made.

“Using a slab versus small pieces glued together has its challenges,” she says. “Mainly, there are many, many fractures and flaws that need to be cleaned.”

It takes days to clean, fill and seal the wood.

“But the results are a truly organic,” she says, noting that no two pieces of wood are alike.

FAMILY AFFAIR

Anne couldn’t run her business without the help of family.

Her mother, she says, has “always been my biggest cheerleader. … She is my rock. … She doesn’t miss a market and her enthusiasm makes everyone smile.”

And she also has become an expert at finishing the pieces. “Nothing gets past her,” Anne-Marie says.

Anne’s father keeps the equipment running. “If there’s a piece of equipment that needs attention, or one that I’m considering purchasing, he makes it a priority,” she says.

Her sister, Stephanie, helps find some of the “cool” cypress accents and old lumber and helps at markets. Her Aunt Bernadette created the “board butter” they use. Her Uncle Peter contributes expertise in construction.

Anne is grateful to all who provide encouragement, inspiration and support.

She writes a thank you note to each customer that always includes the following:  “You have purchased more than a simple object — you have purchased a piece of my heart and soul.”

Rachel Ashcraft is a freelance writer based in Tyler.

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