How did you get into working with wood?
My grandfather was a woodworker, and rumour has it that I learned to wield a hammer before I learned to walk. I loved working with him in his shop, but I only got to be there with him once a year for a week or two throughout my childhood and he passed away when I was 12. I have always enjoyed working with my hands, and whether it was chopping our winter’s supply of firewood with my dad, starting at age 5, or building tree forts in the forest in Montana Using crude tools and cruder supplies, the wooden medium has always captured my interest. I didn’t get my first proper set of tools until about seven years ago when I finally had a garage and a bit of a disposable income to invest. It was love at first sight, and it’s been tough to pry me out of my workshop ever since.
How did you develop the skill base to do the work that you do?
I was mostly self-taught as I got established. Almost four years ago, after I’d had a good number of successful furniture projects under my belt and a growing business of my own in the industry, I was offered the opportunity to run the woodworking program at Pratt Fine Arts Centre. There, I was given the reigns to design the wood education and access program. I had to maintain the machinery, hire teachers, and create course curriculum. I designed the curriculum I wished I’d had available to me when I got started, and the program grew really quickly. I spent as much time with the instructors as I could, gleaning whatever I could, and also got my first opportunities to teach my own classes, which was also a wonderful learning experience. I worked at Pratt for just over two years, then I was able to take my content creation business full time, and I’ve been doing that ever since. Now I get to travel all over the country to teach, but also get to teach from the comfort of my own shop through videos and magazine articles, and even better, I can finally afford to take the classes I wanted to.
What inspires your creations?
People! I love working with my friends, the single best way to get inspired, for me, at least, is to dream with my friends.
What would you tell your younger self starting out on your artistic journey?
Stop buying tools and start taking classes. You’ll save so much time and money in the long run, you’ll make lots of friends who love making stuff, and you’ll learn the right stuff you need to get off to the right start.
Do you sell your work?
Very rarely. I stopped doing commissions a few years ago because it wasn’t good for my mental health. Now, if I sell stuff at all, I build my dream project on spec, then offer it for sale at a price that makes me feel good. If it sells, if it doesn’t, I get to keep something I’m truly proud of.
What is your favourite Arbortech Tool and why?
I love the Mini Carver because it is so versatile. It removes a ton of material in a hurry, but also offers enough control to do detail work. I love to use it in conjunction with hand tools because it saves a ton of time and also allows me to remove material from the exact spot I need to follow up with hand tools and leave a really nice surface.
If you were a type of wood what would you be and why?
I would be a rough sawn walnut crotch slab. Walnut is a fairly easy going wood, but it really doesn’t take much at all to reveal the kinds of incredible hidden character. I’m often told I’m like an onion, you keep peeling back the layers and finding unexpected new things. In a walnut crotch, you can find all kinds of unexpected colours – reds, oranges, greens, purples… One thing very few people consider is that walnut doesn’t age well. It gets lighter and less beautiful the longer its grain is exposed. I think that’s a bit of a funny metaphor because I’m a farmer. I work hard all the time, rain or sun or snow, and I’m bound to have rough skin and wrinkles aplenty way before my time.
How do you like to spend your time when you are not working with wood?
I own an organic farm! I’m always out in my garden and tending to my animals. It keeps me busy, but it’s worth every minute.