Southern Makers: Handmade the Natural Way

Driftwood at 24e Design Co.

Matt Gilligan, a retired professor emeritus of marine and environmental sciences at Savannah State University, has more than 35 years of experience with salt marshes and the coastal ocean. Gilligan goes out into the salt marshes and sifts through driftwood to find artistic pieces that could be turned into various items from sculptures to chandeliers. He only collects “tidewrack” driftwood, which cannot be seen from land or water and he collects pieces of driftwood that might otherwise cause marsh dieback. His practice is eco-friendly and he uses an organic sealer to protect and display the natural beauty of his pieces. A portion of sales benefits Fish Gotta Swim, a non-profit that provides lab and field environmental science education programs for middle schools. •

See Gilligan’s pieces at


Williams Knife Co.

You say “knives.” He says “working heirlooms.”

Although it was a stunning, handmade design and utilitarian power of the Edisto Oyster knife that propelled the fledgling grassroots company to international recognition in 2011, the public appetite for Williams Knife Company has shown no sign of letting up. Quite the opposite actually– owner Chris Williams says there’s virtually no “slow season” for his South Carolina workshop anymore. The former corporate commuter’s side hobby has become a different beast entirely; an inbox stuffed full with over 300 emails per day; orders shipped out to Australia and beyond; customized blades crafted for the 2012 Ryder Cup Team USA. He combs his way through carefully, fielding requests for unusual blades. Each of Williams’ creations are similar in their perfection, but unique in their character.

“I love what I do, and never in my wildest dreams did I think it would grow like this,” he admits. “You just have to find your niche, then get up every day and do it the best way you know how.”

In recent years, Williams has expanded the line of bespoke knives, relying on durable, natural materials like Damascus steel, oyster shell, copper, brass, and wood that he is adamant remain functional above all else.

“My home is in the shop,” he says with a sense of conviction. “I’m always striving to make something as good or better as what went out the day before. At the end of the day, that Williams Knife mark is representative of what I do: excellence.”

See more of Williams' pieces at