Photo by Anna Goodson
I feel like porch swings are as much a part of life in the South as sweet tea, hot summers and hydrangeas. Who doesn’t have comforting childhood memories that involve sitting on a porch swing with a book and an ice cold lemonade? Countless books were read and conversations had on my
parents’ porch swing. My fondness for this icon is shared by Jackson native and the owner of SwingLab, Andy Hilton.
Although Andy first attended the University of Southern Mississippi, he really developed his focus after transferring to Auburn University. There, he majored in Product Development: a major that played to his interest in problem solving and craftsmanship. Andy credits his family as well saying that they are a family of problem solvers that place great value on resourcefulness. After graduating from Auburn, Andy spent some time in New England before returning to his roots to work in the Midtown-based Pearl River Glass Studio.
His return to Jackson and his involvement with Mississippi craftsmen are what inspired him to establish SwingLab. He had always had a love for porch swings and he identified that there was a hole in the market for them — especially for Adirondack style furniture. Andy’s entire product line is locally-sourced as well: the aluminum frames for his swings come from a factory in Clinton and the Cypress wood comes from a business in south Jackson. Andy glues, assembles, and stains the wood and then ships his creations out to the customer. He is proud to say that one of his first creations currently resides in Midtown staple Offbeat Comics, but Andy now has sent his swings around the world, including one to Singapore and one to the Helsinki Airport.
The key to his success, Andy shares, is not only capitalizing on southern nostalgia but taking full advantage of the advent of social media. He promotes his pieces on blogs and websites and through this medium he has been able to extend his network out-of-state and around the world. He is usually working on about 10 swings at a time and excluding the aforementioned frames, does all of the assembly work himself at his studio in Midtown.
While also finishing coursework at Jackson State University in civil engineering, Andy shows no signs of slowing down although he admits that the work is time-consuming. After graduation he plans to stay in Jackson and see what’s next for him.
Andy’s work can be found online at www.swinglab.co