October 2018
Homeplace & Community

More Than Meets the Eye

Daphne Hepstall is an artist who sees unwanted things through understanding eyes.

 

Daphne works in an area behind her home. She said she loves to work in the outdoors and the sunshine. She sands a piece of furniture before sealing and adding color.

In the past, woodworking was mostly a male domain; however, a growing number of women are now picking up their chisels and their claw hammers to enjoy this popular craft as both a hobby and a full-time occupation.

Daphne Hepstall is a woodworker, but after hearing this, most either look at her sideways or roll their eyes. This petite young lady is used to such reactions! Hepstall has learned to laugh and let her works tell her story. In fact, one look at her unique creations, and anyone can see why this talented artisan is much more than meets the eye.

Daphne Hepstall is an artist who sees unwanted things through understanding eyes. With a closer look at aged, discarded wood, she uncovers a deeper beauty hidden within. To her, there are never any scrap pieces of wood, only pieces that she has not yet found a way to use. Aged barn boards, old piers or even planks, stripped from crumbling buildings, breathe new life with her touch.

Hepstall believes in preserving the things Mother Nature has given us. When her hands touch scrap wood, the aging fibers become something more than they ever were before. Her pleasure comes in knowing that the old wood never goes away, because someone is still using it after it has found a new purpose.

Merely repurposing wood is not all Hepstall does, however! She has become quite well known for her quaint, and sometimes quirky, embellishments. She collects discarded spark plugs, fire-poker tips, door knobs, hinges, square nails, fence toppers and much more to give each piece a distinctive personality of its own.

"That’s the fun of it," she laughed. "I love being creative and just seeing what I can make!"

Dephne Hepstall keeps a display at her home for drop-in customers. Most of her sales are through social media.

 

Her busy hands fashion farmhouse tables, benches, hutches, end tables, beds, headboards, and signs. She loves to refinish older church pews. Recently, she finished one of her favorite things: an old Hoosier cabinet. The wood had been water-damaged, and the vintage piece had seen much better days. Under Hepstall’s touch, however, it took on a proud, new air with its own aura.

Hepstall also builds and refurbishes cabinets, work that is very demanding and detailed. Her intricate glazing techniques require patience and an eye for uniformity. She mixes her own colors, preferring to create a rich dimensional look that is very popular now. The process is slow, because she must work within a short timespan before the paint dries. Each job is unique, with no two ever looking exactly alike, which increases the popularity of her work.

"I hope to have my own shop one day," she stated. "Then the custom cabinetry work will be much easier, because I can build them at home and transport them to other locations." Currently, her workspace is her back porch that has an adjoining deck and a storage house with an attached deck, located behind her home. These areas are filled with projects in one stage of development or another.

Hepstall’s imaginations run the gamut from unconventional to whimsical to rustic to aesthetic. Some of her most requested projects are her pet kennels. She has made them as entry tables, coffee tables, sideboards, and more. She adds tops to small and large wire kennels, making them look like decorative pieces of furniture that fit perfectly into any decor.

India Champion is one of her satisfied customers. "I sent her a picture of what I had in mind for my kennel, and she made it for me," Champion explained. "Daphne is super creative and very talented. She can take an absolute piece of junk and make a beautiful piece of furniture."

Hepstall started her business by redoing her own furniture. "When you don’t have money," she laughed, "you just do it yourself!"

After seeing the results, many of her friends then asked her to refinish their own pieces. She got so many requests that she found little time to do her own. Her work rapidly increased just by word-of-mouth, but once she used social media, the demand skyrocketed! This is when she established her own business, Reborn by Daphne.

Hepstall’s furniture may be in high demand, but her birdhouses are truly her signature pieces.

 

Daphne also makes mailbox covers from reclaimed wood. In this picture, the owner wanted more areas where smaller birds could nest.

"My birdhouses have their own personalities," she explained. "No two are ever alike. When I make one, it’s like it is my own baby, so I name each one. I just love to create these."

She first started making smaller birdhouses, using whatever wood she had. Now, she has progressed to taller ones, which she prefers. The birdhouses sell almost as quickly as she can make them. Before Christmas 2017, she put her creations on Facebook and sold 27 immediately. After she loaded some on her truck to show the girls at work, customers saw the truck parked at her job site, pulled into the parking lot and bought all she had, right from the back of her truck! Once, when she ran to a local hardware store to pick up supplies, she had a few samples on the back of her truck. When she parked, she had customers coming over to the truck, asking about her works. Once again, she sold them right from the back of her truck.

Even though Hepstall’s birdhouses are made for feathered friends, most people choose to keep them inside, as rustic decor or accent pieces. Many customers also use them in outdoor eating areas, around pools and even in man cages! Samples of her unique birdhouses can be seen at Gaston’s Grill and Dr. Stoudenmire’s Office in Thomasville and the Lucky Duck Boutique in Jackson. Reborn by Daphne can be found on Facebook.

Hepstall is a single mother, who lives in the small community of Sandflat, just south of Thomasville. She drives an old farm truck, wears work boots and stands about five feet tall. But don’t let her size and beauty fool you! She is a country girl to the core, and she’s extremely proud of it. She knows how to work and prides herself on her independence. She has taught her two children to be self-reliant, to learn by doing and to love the outdoors as much as she does.

Left to right, Austin Marshall, Daphne and Jesse Marshall sit in one of the swings that Daphne has made.

 

"My kids have no Internet or Wi-Fi," Hepstall added. "They love the outdoors, and they stay out in the sunshine helping me. Both know how to work and take care of themselves. They both have excellent work ethics."

Jesse (13) is a dedicated fisherman and hunter. The Hepstall home is near a small pond, and Jesse is often on the banks. He also plays baseball and football at Thomasville High School. Austin (8) attends Thomasville Elementary School. She, too, plays softball and enjoys all sports.

Both Jesse and Austin work with their mother. Jesse cuts wood, measures and uses the circular, band, table and miter saws. He also runs the planer. Jesse said he loved to see dark, dingy boards go through the planer and transform into something beautiful with amazing graining. Austin, on the other hand, has an eye for detail and likes to create, just like her mother. She mixes colors and paints many of the items her mother makes. She especially likes to mix unusual palettes with unexpected color combinations. She has recently started pour painting, using unusual filters for interesting designs.

Hepstall works as a dental assistant and lab technician for Dr. Jeffery Stoudenmire, a local dentist in Thomasville. She and her children are avid animal lovers, who live with five Great Danes and an old bulldog. The dogs are part of the business and lie patiently watching Hepstall and her children as they work.

Day in and day out, Daphne Hepstall reawakens rejected wood. With hard work, stick-to-itiveness and amazing talent, she hews the meaningless into the meaningful and the rejected into the reclaimed, giving birth to much more than meets the eye.

 

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..