All of his adult life, craftsman Jaime Walton has dreamed of furniture designs. Whether it was to build a bookcase or chair, this desire went unrealized for many years, though you wouldn’t know it by walking through his newly opened showroom and workshop, JME Makes, in Railroad Square.
One wall is covered with a bounty of tools and gears of varying sizes and purposes. Other walls feature Walton’s creations. There are instruments turned into lamps like a violin wrapped with five strings of LED fairy lights to represent a musical score. Other designs include a light comprised of a fencing mask and the base of an old fan, a plastic replica of a marlin soon to be reborn as a mechanical fish, with metal scales and a sprocket around the eye, and a boat’s gas tank reinvented as a cat’s face in the empty space that used to hold the carburetor.
“This is how my brain works,” smiles Walton, demonstrating how a series of pipe organs might whistle after he assembles them into a doorbell for his workshop. “I have some things in common with hoarders in that I like to collect things, but for me, it’s about the intrinsic value of an object.”
JME Makes will have a grand opening during Railroad Square’s March First Friday event where the public will be able to see Walton’s metal, wood, stone, and glass works in person. He hopes to continue collaborating with community members on custom pieces, as well as offer up his handyman and design services and eventually offering classes in his workshop.
Straddling the line between artist and craftsman, he describes himself as a maker, juxtaposing the refined with the industrial. As a kid, Walton learned crafts like macramé and embroidery from his mother, and his background in construction as an adult gave him a familiarity with tools.
In Albany, New York, he worked odd jobs in plumbing and construction, enjoying the physical aspects of the work as well as solving the challenge of how to do everything efficiently. At one point, he answered a Craigslist ad for labor on a project that involved architectural salvage and was eventually hired by the late Fred Shapiro, former head of the Silver Fox Salvage company. The demolition business would store salvaged items in its 10,000 square foot building, stocked with antiques and lighting from various projects. However, the main goal of the site was to attract visitors to the business’ custom furniture building. Shapiro liked Walton’s work ethic and hired him full time, which is where Walton found his forte constructing kitchen tables, cabinetry, light fixtures and more out of the store’s massive inventory. “By jumping in and building tables that were interesting, solid, and structurally sound, I impressed Fred and we started a relationship,” says Walton. “A joke in the shop was that anything could be a light or a table. Fred was a forecaster and liked to reuse things but also thought there was an economic niche for it. The most valuable thing he gave me was showing me how to get from where I was to where I wanted to be.”
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