Local Parishes

Woodworker turns scrap into a family business

The entire Byrne family works together creating, promoting and selling art repurposed from wood castoffs. From left are, son Kian, daughter Kaitlin, Ian Byrne and his wife Kathy Quinn.

The entire Byrne family works together creating, promoting and selling art repurposed from wood castoffs. From left are, son Kian, daughter Kaitlin, Ian Byrne and his wife Kathy Quinn.

by Jill Ragar Esfeld

Curé of Ars parishioner Ian Byrne is living the faith — specifically Psalm 118:22: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

After years of being focused on the beautiful custom woodwork for which he is known, Byrne is finding his attention drawn instead to the pieces of scrap wood falling from his band saw.

“I pick them up and jiggle them around,” he said. “And I think, ‘What can I make out of this?’”

He’s answered that question many times over with everything from wall art to furniture to an assortment of curios.

As a matter of fact, Byrne recently opened Off the Floor Woodwork, a store showcasing original art and furniture created from salvaged wood.

And his entire family has joined him in the process of taking what the builder once rejected and transforming it into a cornerstone of home decor.

From stain sample to wall art

Originally from County Wicklow, Ireland, Byrne immigrated to Kansas City in 1987. A few years later, he started Byrne Custom Woodworking, specializing in custom furniture, cabinets and plantation shutters.

He’s always felt a kinship with Jesus, blessed to share his profession. And so it follows that much of his business involves building and renovating in churches.

“I’ve done a ton of work in sacred spaces of all denominations,” he said.

“And I love it; I get very passionate about it.

“When I’m long gone, this furniture — these altars — will still be there.”
Byrne is passionate about wood in general.

“Ian has always had a great love and respect for anything having to do with wood,” said his wife Kathy Quinn. “He couldn’t bear to throw away God’s beautiful creation.

“Instead, he decided to start a business that would use the off-the-floor wood to show off its beauty.”

“It’s survived a hundred years,” said Byrne. “I’m not going to let it go now.

“I’m going to put it on a piece of wall art so it can be around for another 100 years.”

The idea came about when Byrne was involved in a residential project for a client in Vail, Colo.

“We did all the furniture, cabinets and paneling,” he explained. “When it came to choosing the stain and color, [the client] asked for a stain sample.”

Byrne got a large piece of plywood and glued some of the scrap pieces on it. He stained and finished them, framed it and showed it to the client.

“She went absolutely crazy for it,” he said. “She loved it — it was the story of her whole house in one frame.”

Byrne’s “stain sample” ended up displayed as an art piece in the home.
And that started him thinking about repurposing off-the-floor wood as wall art.

A family affair

Before long, Byrne recruited his son Kian and daughter Andreina to join him in rummaging through the scrap-wood bin to find inspiration for art.

It was a natural progression for both.

“We’ve been working with wood since we were little kids,” said Andreina.

“We were allowed to use chisels, so we would chisel our names or a design in pieces of wood.

“Kian used to make little sculptures; my sister (Kaitlyn) and I made Barbie beds. We still have all these wooden Barbie beds at our house.”

All adults now, Kian and Andreina are naturally artistic and enthusiastically embraced the idea of reclaiming wood to create art for the new shop.

“The art angle is nice because we’re just doing whatever we want,” said Kian.

And their mother, who is an Emmy award-winning journalist for “FOX 4 News,” runs the business side of the operation in her spare time.

But she’s not the only multitasker in this family.

In addition to woodworking, Byrne and Kian perform with The Elders, an internationally acclaimed Celtic-rock band.

Andreina apprentices at a production company during the day and works in the woodshop evenings. She also writes music reviews.

When asked if “high energy” is a family trait, Byrne said, “Absolutely. I can’t sit still, and the kids are like that, too.

“God gave us talent; we’re not going to sit around and just waste it.”

Byrne’s daughter Kaitlyn and her fiance Joey Privitera manage Off the Wall Woodwork’s website.

Byrne’s sister-in-law, Elizabeth Quinn-Babcock, rounds out the family affair as the in-store manger.

“We see a lot of each other now,” said Byrne. “It’s brought us all closer together.”

A cozy place to browse

The Byrne family found the perfect place to display and sell their art in the Waldo neighborhood of Kansas City, Mo.

“The building itself has got an old tile roof on it,” said Byrne. “I liked the architectural details of the building. It’s very quaint.”

Byrne worked his magic to make the interior a perfect venue for the eclectic art and a welcoming place for visitors to browse.

“I love the location and what he’s done with the inside,” said Quinn-  Babcock. “It’s so cozy; it feels like it should be a pub.”

That atmosphere is nurtured by the infectious attitude of this family that not only works together, but clearly loves being together.

“Our family does literally everything together,” said Kian. “I don’t know why — I don’t know how we got that. But working with them doesn’t seem odd to me.”

For his part, Byrne credits another carpenter for this new direction in his life . . . and for the blessing of a healthy and happy family.

“I do believe we get signs, you know, of the way we’re supposed to go,” he said. “We get nods and prods all the time.

“I think sometimes we should listen a little bit more and take that silent advice.”

About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

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