Not many Staples High School graduates join the Marines.
Not a lot make tables for a living.
It’s pretty rare for a Staples athlete — a skier and state champion volleyball player — to earn two degrees from the Rhode Island School of Design.
Todd Austin has done all of those things.
His post-Staples path is anything but typical. He would have it no other way.
In August 1999 — 2 months after his Staples graduation — Todd was in boot camp. “I wasn’t ready for college,” he says. “I wanted to get out of Westport. I needed a different experience.”
Putting his artistic side “on hold” — he was voted Most Artistic at Bedford Middle School — Todd rose through the ranks, to corporal. He spent 6 months in Southeast Asia, where the sights, smells and sounds of the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand made a profound influence.
The last 6 months of his 4-year military contract were in Iraq. He was part of the 1st US invasion. His only art was tattooing fellow Marines.
But once an artist, always an artist. Back in Connecticut, Todd met David Boyajian. The Danbury sculptor took him under his wing. “I had a lot of artistic energy stored up,” Todd says. “David re-sparked my interest.”
David helped Todd create a portfolio. RISD — one of the top art schools in the country — accepted him. Soon, Todd was immersed in a community of “creative, like-minded, passionate people.”
He spent a year doing sculptures, then transferred to the architecture program. At the same time he worked with a carpenter, learning to build houses.
Graduating with dual bachelor’s degrees — in fine arts and architecture — Todd moved to Newport. He pursued both carpentry and fine art.
After a stint with a furniture builder near “stunningly beautiful” Telluride, Colorado, Todd returned to Connecticut. He had a good job with an architectural firm, but realized he was not made to sit at a desk.
These days, Todd is focused on fine art, and table-making. In his wood shop and studio on Partrick Lane he also creates coffee tables, chairs and shelving. His style is “contemporary rustic,” incorporating traditional building techniques and materials. He’s built up a loyal clientele, largely through word-of-mouth, gallery leads and Facebook.
His website — filled with photos of his work — contains an interesting quote. It’s one part Marine, one part artist, and 100% Todd Austin:
“I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty, and work for beauty.”