My passion for woodworking began with a love of trees.
I was fortunate to have spent my childhood mostly in rural areas, with room to roam amongst the seemingly endless New England mixed hardwood and conifer forests. I learned to appreciate the strength of oak by climbing far out on their branches, and learned that birch bark was the best tinder for fires even in the wettest rainstorm.
I grew up in the woods of New-England, but felt stifled by the conformity of the culture. Off to the west coast I trekked, and found myself in the cathedral-like redwoods and wild rivers of Humboldt county, California. I spent my time productively exploring, learning the lessons of the ocean waves and just being young and in love with the incredible abundance of beauty present in that part of the world. I spent some time as well with a few woodworkers who shared a shop in the bottom-lands near Humboldt Bay in Arcata, and fell in love with the craft. I loved the things they made, but also loved the idea of having a space of my own to create.
More than a little afraid to take a risk on myself by pursuing a creative endeavor, I chose to study engineering at university. Still, my interest in the natural world persisted, and I enrolled in an environmental program with a reputation for outside-the-box ideas with an ecosystem-based approach. I excelled; all the while knowing deep down that the real world of engineering would not suit me. There were too many compromises, and too much pressure to conform to a certain way of viewing the world.
After two years of work in a small civil engineering firm after college, I longed for a radical change. I found that change in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer. My experience there was humbling – Africans are a resilient and ingenious people, and the environment will literally eat you. Of course, like most who join the Peace Corps I was actually running from myself.
Once back in the States, I migrated back to the West Coast, bought a 32-foot sailboat, moved on-board and took work building and repairing boats. Being the west-coast, these were mostly fiberglass (except for Port Townsend, we don’t have the wood boat tradition out here that is found in New England), but the job allowed me to begin building my tool collection and re-learn what it means to build something from nothing. Eventually, I tired of the exposure to the harsh chemicals of the trade and I decided to go back to school, finish my graduate degree and get a “real” job. I bought a house, got gainful employment with a big engineering firm, and tried my best to fit in.
Life has a way of steering you; of reminding you over and over again that there is something you need to do to be whole. Sometimes it’s done subtly, sometimes it’s a swift kick in the ass. For me, the decisive moment came soon after my first daughter was born. I could not keep up the charade any longer with this tiny precious thing that I knew would be looking to me in the future for guidance. I found myself daydreaming of working for myself, and found myself really mourning the lost time in a little cubicle away from the precious new gift that my wife had brought into this world.
Mostly because of my indifference to the “important” tasks at hand, I lost my job at the start of the great recession in 2008. I was fortunate that my wife made a good living and valued having a parent at home for our children. Caring for (our now two) children is a full-time job in itself of course, but I’ve been able to squeak an hour or two here and there everyday to develop my skills as a craftsperson, as well as my appreciation for good design.
In this age of planned obsolescence, the demise of American craft, and the pervasiveness of assembly-line trash, I believe many of us desire something more permanent, something solid – something made with love by the hands of a person that cares about his or her work. I’ll always consider myself a student, as there are forever things to learn, but my skills have gotten to the point where I can begin to think about purpose rather than craft. Intention rather than process. It’s an exciting time for me.
I hope to develop a few signature pieces over the next few years, and invite you to participate in this process. Please tell me what do you love about shapes, textures and color? What sort of things do you want to surround yourself with? The path between art and commerce is a difficult one for everyone, but I’ve always been of the opinion (though obviously, until my kids were born, not the action) that one should start with what you love and try to find a way to make it work. I’d love to help you walk this path as well. If you would like to talk about a handmade piece of furniture to enrich your life, please give me a call, and email, a text, or hunt me down at the local playground where you’ll find me laughing myself silly with my kids. Life’s too short to do less!