Steamboat Springs Chris Venezia wasn't certain what he would do after graduating from the University of Arizona six years ago.
He only knew he wasn't going to law school.
"I'd been applying to law schools and I was ready to go, but one morning I woke up and said, 'What the heck am I doing? This isn't me,'" he said.
Today, Venezia owns a business that specializes in teaming local artisans to create one-of-a-kind home furnishings. In the process, he has figured out who he is.
It took Venezia years to realize that he had a creative talent for business. He excels at bringing woodworkers, wrought-iron craftsmen and stone workers together to execute furnishings and accessories that previously existed only in the minds of customers.
"I was a carpenter for six years. I'd done a lot of log work, deck railings and interior finish work," Venezia said. "I started a wood shop and all of a sudden one day, I just saw a bigger picture."
Venezia realized that many of the guys he came to know on construction jobs were actually looking for a more creative outlet for their talents.
"I had friends on jobs who were carpenters but on weekends were craftspeople," he said. "All of these people have a dream of getting out of the rat race and becoming artists."
Believing that there is a market in Steamboat for singular home furnishing pieces at reasonable prices, Venezia has opened a modest showroom at 1306 Lincoln Ave. and called it "Live Edge" after a woodworking technique. The store is across Lincoln from the library, next to Iron Spring Park.
The little shop is dominated by native "character logs" and wrought iron. But every time a customer turns around, something new meets the eye.
All of the pieces are for sale, but they also represent a starting point in Venezia's mind. He most enjoys working with customers to develop exactly the piece they want.
"People assume that custom work has to be overdone and expensive," Venezia said. "Here, we keep it simple. I walk them through it and they wind up getting exactly what they wanted."
Venezia had the good fortune to purchase an entire 20-year collection of character wood assembled by a local logger. He paid him to finish the spectacular logs into giant wood pedestals and 100 lamps.
Live Edge can tap into a list of 50 artisans in Venezia's database, but two key people, Nacho Quezada and Pete Van Arsdale, are the mainstays. Quezada creates hand-forged wrought-iron furniture, often topped by Van Arsdale's woodworking.
Another key artisan is Cliff Davies, who is in the business of tearing down and rebuilding barns. He takes discarded barn wood and creates objects of beauty. Quezada, who works at a forge in Craig, has 38 years of experience, most of it acquired in construction projects in Mexico and California. He also has worked as a welder.
"His ironwork is the backbone of the shop," Venezia said.
Before he teamed up with Venezia, Quezada mostly built spiral staircases, deck railings and security fences. But his passion is making pieces of furniture for individual clients.
"I like the money (from construction and welding jobs), but I like people to say 'good job,'" Quezada said. When you are, "welding, welding and welding, nobody says, 'good job.'"
Van Arsdale is a woodworking wizard who can find a source for any kind of wood customers might want, Venezia said.
Customers who spot something they like in a design magazine are encouraged to bring him clippings and let the artisans affiliated with Live Edge create something similar. Chances are, he said, they can improve upon it.
-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205 or