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Excerpt from:

Worcester Living October 2008

Colonial craftsman

Paul Rulli puts personal touch on period pieces

Raised in Sturbridge, Rulli spent many a day playing with friends in Old Sturbridge Village. “By third grade I had fallen in love with Colonial America,” he says. Rulli’s father also had an influence on his early development as a craftsman. Not only did his dad let him use a table saw at a young age, he instilled in him the idea that nothing is unattainable.

“My dad was a can-do guy,” says Rulli. “For him there were no obstacles to doing things.”

After graduating from Tantasqua Regional High School, Rulli says that he initially took “a very traditional path,” by going to Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston to study civil engineering.

Even as an engineer, however, furniture making remained in the forefront for Rulli. He remembers spending 40 hours a week doing woodworking in addition to engineering.

“I couldn’t get enough of it,” he says. “It wasn’t a hobby, it was a passion, and if you have a passion for something, (you) do it.”

This mind-set eventually led to Rulli’s decision to become a full-time artisan, regardless of the financial risk. By then he was focusing on early American furniture reproductions.

Today Rulli lives in Webster, and his business — Paul Rulli Reproductions — is not far from his home. The building in which he works is part of a mill dating back to the 1860s, and its history couples nicely with Rulli’s work — the mill was once owned by the Slaters, who were forerunners of the American Industrial Revolution.

Rulli loves where he works. The tall ceilings and old woodwork give the place character from which he takes inspiration. He estimates that he spends about 65 to 100 hours per week working, and from the way his face lights up as he walks around his shop, one can conclude that he never tires of it. Apart from his workbench, Rulli’s shop is, quite literally, filled wall-to-wall with various pieces of Colonial furniture that he has completed or is in the process of finishing.

When Rulli works, he likes to imagine that he is in Colonial America and under the same conditions that craftsmen back then would have been under. He uses antique tools that he has collected from various sources — flea markets, basements and antique shops.

“I love how human hands have sculpted the entire surface,” he says as he points out the small imperfections that can be found in the pieces. When surveying the furniture, one can find reproductions made from wood used in Colonial times — cherry, walnut, soft maple, birch and mahogany, replete with traditional accents such as ball and claw feet, Flemish scrolls and rosettes.

And when the pieces do leave, Rulli knows that they go to good homes. Most of Rulli’s customer base is through word-of-mouth, and often buyers will return to purchase multiple pieces.



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