South Charlotte

Family weaves a pretty cool tradition

Barry Duppstadt weaves a piece of his own family history into every custom chair he makes.

His prized projects are a family tradition passed down father to son to twin brother.

It's called "cording."

Working with just the framework of a lawn chair, Duppstadt, 65, weaves colored cord made from 100 percent polyolefin fibers into whatever design you want.

Just tell him the colors, the image and the words, and he makes it happen.

He's best at sports chairs, and he's got a collection of chairs adorned with beloved college teams.

He does the vertical lines first, so he has something to weave the horizontals into. Then he starts with the seat and moves up the back of the chair. At the end, he burns the ends of the cord to keep from having awkward knots.

Duppstadt, who lives in Park Crossing with his wife, Kathy, retired from IBM in the mid-90s, and held several sales jobs afterward. He decided to officially retire last fall. After a few months of golf, he started getting antsy, so he went to visit his identical twin brother, Larry, who has a mountain house with his wife in Waynesville.

Duppstadt's father, a welder, learned to cord chairs in the 1960s in Barry's hometown of Shanksville, Pa. Larry learned the hobby while he was living in Washington, D.C..

Nearly 40 years later, he taught Barry the tricks of the trade. And after only about a year of cording, Duppstadt's got nearly 60 chairs to show for it.

Duppstadt will entertain even the most out-of-the-box ideas. He once corded a chair with a player in the shape of Phoenix Sun's star Steve Nash. And at a recent Pineville craft show, a woman approached Duppstadt's table with an unconventional request: an avid "Gone with the Wind" fan, she wanted a chair that reflected her passion.

Duppstadt charges about $120 a chair, which recoups his expenses with a little left over. The supplies alone are $65, and each chair takes about five hours to make.

But people are always asking him: How sturdy are they? At the Pineville craft show, a 250-pound man stationed at the table across from him asked the same question.

The man tested the chairs and found they could handle his frame.

In addition to his cording business, he also referees high school softball, basketball and volleyball, and refs games for a pickup basketball league for the homeless in northwest Charlotte. He spends three days a week chauffeuring senior citizens who live in The Cyprus off Park Road to their appointments.

"He's a jack of all trades," said Kathy, 65. "And he's not the sit-still type."

Duppstadt's father, a welder, died of prostate cancer 18 years ago; he never got to see his other son take up the hobby.

But Duppstadt gets to use a set of metal hooks his father made especially for the craft.

"Every once in awhile...I'd get a chair almost done and I would see a mistake...and have to take it all apart," said Duppstadt. "I sit and say 'What would my dad do?' My dad would take a deep breath, and he would take the chair apart because he'd want to do this right."