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Women of Woodworking – Vanessa Johnston, South Queensferry, Edinburgh, Scotland

15 Jun

IMG_2844Vanessa Johnston’s journey as a fine woodworker has only just begun, and she is starting with quite a bang. She is a recent graduate of the Chippendale International School of Furniture in Edinburgh and was awarded the prestigious honor of being named the Chippendale Society’s Student of the Year.

Vanessa began woodworking at 20 when she assisted with the construction of an outdoor kitchen and a private tent site. Over time, her carpentry interests developed into a passion for fine woodworking.

“Building tables for wedding altars and my own dining areas plunged me into wanting to be able to do it well and build find things,” she explains.

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Vanessa’s favorite tool is her ventilator mask, as it goes through every step of every project with her. She is inspired by a variety of art, from little sculptures her fiance’s father carved out of driftwood, to works by Rothko and Jacques Louis David.

“Gloria Petarre has a black and white oil painting called Leaves that stirs my soul… I think out of everything right now though it’s Alexander Calder’s Blue Feather. The movement in his sculptures makes me feel like I can fly,” she shares.

IMG_2850.JPGIn her recent works, Vanessa has completed an armchair of her own design, which she describes as “loosely based on both the Sam Maloof low back chair and the Wegner Wishbone chair.” It features Scottish elm and olive ash hardwoods. She is also turning live edge bowls and platters from a green cherry tree.

To view more of Vanessa’s work or get in touch:

http://vanessa.io
@vanessawoodworking

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Women of Woodworking – Kate Duncan, Vancouver, BC, Canada

31 May

Kate Duncan is pretty straight forward. It shows through the clear and clean lines in her work, and even in sharing her story, she sticks to the elements of what works and what doesn’t.Debra Collection.2016.17

She describes her woodworking background in plain terms. She started woodworking in her 7th grade shop class, and now works out of her studio in Vancouver, BC.

Kate’s modern collections are constructed using traditional joinery. Her designs feature luxurious accents such as elegant hardware selections or fluid pairings with mellow leather upholstery. Each collection is gracefully named in a playful juxtaposition to it’s defined forms.

When it comes to tools, Kate likes “Chisels. Sharp ones.”

Heather Bed.2016.7

She draws artistic inspiration from The High Line in New York City.

Kate’s current projects include protyping a new dining room table design. “It’s very fashion forward… I’m experimenting with a few new techniques.”

 
To view more of Kate’s work or get in touch:

http://kateduncan.ca
@kateduncandesign

Women of Woodworking – Danielle Rose Byrd, Bar Harbor, Maine

8 May

IMG_0712Danielle Rose Byrd is a woodcarver who enjoys making bowls, spoons, shrink pots and other utensils. Much like the craft of woodworking itself, there is a welcoming feel to Danielle’s work. Aside from the obvious functionality of kitchenware as a sharing or serving piece, her work is comprehensible. Forms are crafted to please the eye with layers of texture to tease the mind and incite the urge to touch.

Danielle is originally from Maine and has spent almost her entire life there. Her father was a carpenter, and growing up “I got a good dose of hammer swinging,” she says.

IMG_0713She started woodworking in college, and has been professionally for the past six or seven years. Her favorite tool is “A scary-sharp gouge. Or anything sharp that happens to be
within arm’s reach just when I want it. Nothing beats that,” she explains.

Her recent focus has been on bowls. “I’ve been swinging between the extremes of refined, simple forms and rough, wild, and impulsive forms. I like a good mix. I’ve also been working on some angular, large facet shrink pots with those fat lids I like.”

While Danielle is known for her hand carving technique, she is not afraid to explore new horizons and utilize what is discovered in her development of new work. “I recently got a turbo plane power carving disc, and I’m excited to see what comes of that. I love hand tools, but power carving intrigues me,” she explains.IMG_0714

“I find that when I indulge in my interests, even if it doesn’t materialize as something I intend on selling, it usually helps to inform other work in a beneficial way. Sometimes I just have to scratch the itch and that’s enough to inspire me elsewhere.”

Danielle’s work will be on display at Island Artisans gallery in Bar Harbor this summer. To view more of her work or get in touch:

daniellerosebyrd.com
daniellerosebyrd@gmail.com
@danielle_rose_byrd

Women of Woodworking – Meredith Hart, Durham, North Carolina

26 Apr

IMG_0519When asked, Meredith Hart will tell you she meandered into woodworking. Her background is in art and design, and after college she moved to Vermont to take classes at Yestermorrow Design/Build School. She just so happened to really love the ladder back chair and box making classes. Then, she applied to the North Bennet Street School in Boston, which is where she claims to have really made her start.

Taking a look at Hart’s work, albeit from a distance, it’s hard to believe she aimlessly drifted into something that she has such a natural aptitude for. Her work pairs the restraint of classical styles with modern shapes. Pieces appear to be practical, almost sensible, but a dashing undertone shines through in the details. A seemingly simple table may feature proud, hidden carvings under the top’s edges or crisp, faceted stretchers. IMG_0521

Like a reflection of her own journey into the craft, there is a bit of enchantment in her work that can only be seen if you look closely enough.

Hart is currently working on a commissioned design for a leather top desk that will include brass lion’s feet. A touch of other elements such as metal or glass is another signature in Hart’s balanced compositions.

“I don’t think I’ll ever have a custom project that doesn’t require me to learn something new. That’s what keeps it interesting,” she says.IMG_0520

Her favorite piece of art is Wharton Esherick’s woodcut “Swing.” “With just a few simple cuts the image depicts the pull of gravity and rush of wind in a way that you can almost feel it,” she describes.

Her favorite tool is her Stanley 71 1/2 router plane she acquired while in school in New Hampshire. She now resides in Durham, North Carolina, where she enjoys living between the coast and the mountains.

 

 

To view more of Meredith’s work or get in touch:

MeredithHartFurniture.com
Meredith@MeredithHartFurniture.com
@MeredithHartFurniture

Women of Woodworking Reworked

24 Apr

Recently I received yet another inquiry asking if I could connect a business with a woman woodworker for a potential project. They found my information through my website, specifically my own Women of Woodworking project. It was a long shot for them to reach out but in the end, we were able to get them connected with someone.

Over the past few years I have had to pause this project, with the hopes to restore it and build even more of what has already continued to grow in my absence – a community for women woodworkers.

Inspired, I’ve fired up the old IG account and threw out a few posts. I’ve been blown away by the positive reception. I know now for sure I need to continue to tell the stories of the women that help make this moment in our craft such a beautiful one.

As with any prototype, Women of Woodworking is being slightly reworked from its original version to allow for more frequent posts and varied content as we move forward (including shop tours, videos, and so on). While I am exploring new possibilities and directions for the project, for now, my website ktthompson.com will continue to serve as the series’ official home, as well as our Instagram, @WomenofWoodworking.

Most importantly, I look forward to connecting more interesting people and sharing their unique stories as women in woodworking. Don’t hesitate to leave comments with your favorite crafts women, works or questions you’d like to ask. This is a dynamic community and I encourage the friendly spirit of sharing that woodworking brings out in the best of us.

Women of Woodworking – Kelly Meagher, Northwest Arkansas

4 Jun

unnamed-1Kelly Meagher is wood burner and stay at home mom living in Northwest Arkansas. She specializes in botanical wall hangings, and has a unique and interesting story behind her path to woodworking.

Meagher grew up in Mexico with parents working in missions working to help support those trying to leave the drug trade. Her father opened a carpentry shop to provide opportunities to those men seeking a better life.

“Everything in our home, from the cabinets, to the beds, to the dressers were built by my dad. I remember being fascinated with watching him turn raw slabs of wood into beautiful pieces of furniture. To be able to envision an end piece out of nothing, and then be able to execute it was amazing to me – and beautiful,” says Meagher.

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When Meagher became a senior in high school, her and her father embarked on their first joint project together, a hope chest. Meagher shares “I loved every moment of it. I don’t think at the time I ever imagined myself being a wood worker, but I definitely can look back at the moments I spent with him in his woodshop, and know that that was clearly where I fell in love with using wood as a medium.”

Later on, Meagher stumbled onto the wood burning technique she now focuses on. Eight months pregnant with her son, she wasn’t happy with any of the decorations she found while working to decorate her new home. She decided to play around with her husband’s wood burner, and immediately fell in love with her creations. A few months later, Meagher decided to open up her now thriving Etsy shop, Of Thistle and Thyme.

As far as considering whether or not her gender has affected her experience in woodworking, Meagher does not think it has since she is stay at home mom and hasn’t ventured to much into the woodworking community. As far as her clients go, Meagher explains “I’ve noticed that about 90 percent of my customers are women – and I intentionally have tried to reach women as my audience on social media – mainly because my shop is home décor and specifically botanical and floral in detail – so more feminine in nature.” But while her clients at mostly women, Meagher shares that males are more likely to reach out to ask questions about her tools or process, even though they may not be the ones actually buying her product.

Meagher continues to explore her botanical work and admits that there is an inherently feminine direction of her designs. “My first wood burned pieces were ones I made for my own home. And after making them, I fell in love with them and thought they would sell well. So from the beginning I saw my product as home décor, which generally is a more feminine interest – at least at the level of where I’m at in my shop.”

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Meagher’s favorite pieces are always the newest one she makes, but she’s been particularly fond of the food pieces she’s made, especially her artichoke design. Meagher gets her designs from the illustrations of early botanists and traces them onto the wood. Meagher shares more about her process, sharing that “When it comes to design, a lot of thought goes into which prints I choose, and how I edit them when I’m tracing. My goal is always to give my wall hangings a simplistic feel that still feels full or sufficient. And then, really, choosing the right piece of wood to work with is critical. Some grains of wood can really mess with the print and distract from it, and some grains make it impossible to even wood burn a clean image. So my work is very much pairing the right image onto the right piece of wood.“

Meagher has some exciting new plans coming up for brides-to-be and also more floral arrangements. “In the very near future I’ll be offering customized bridal bouquets where I’ll be taking custom orders to wood burn images of individual bouquets for brides. And later this year, I’ll be launching poster size wood burnings of collages of whole flower species. I’m still working out the details on this which is why it’ll come out later this year, but I would say it’s the one things I’m most pumped about.”

For the future of Women in Woodworking Meagher has an optimistic outlook. “I have high hopes for women in woodworking. I think the lines aren’t drawn as tightly as they used to be, and I believe in the near future we’ll see more and more women taking it up as a trade. Women are creative and innovative, and more and more the gender role of trades is changing. It won’t take long for women to see that wood is an awesome medium to work with.”

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Specifically for those looking to start their business and are considering Etsy as their initial platform, Meagher was kind enough to share details of her experiences to those interested. “I originally started my shop with both its own website as well as a store on Etsy. But after a few months I saw a clear advantage to having an Etsy shop with an already established audience versus trying to generate traffic to my own website. The thing about having a trade of any kind, is that not only are you working at your trade, but if you’re boot strapping it like I have, you’re suddenly a photographer, marketer, business developer, and customer service person. It’s a lot to take on, especially if what you really love to do is just create. I’ve found Etsy to be an awesome answer to a big portion of that pressure. They already have an established audience who are looking for handmade products, and I’ve simply have to tap into it. It’s saved me a lot of leg work.

I will say I’ve had a hard time getting traffic to my shop, simply because people aren’t really looking for wood burnings. It’s an old fashioned trade, and while it’s one I’m trying to bring back into modern decor, it’s still not something people are looking for. Very rarely has anyone found my shop by searching for wood burnings. It just hasn’t happened. So while Etsy still provides views from casual browsers, I’ve found that the majority of my actual customers have come from my Instagram account. My social media accounts paired with the familiar Etsy backdrop has been a great pairing for my shop.”

Etsy has provided so many artists and new business owners with the opportunity to explore their passions and turn them into a real job, and a real business. It’s been a pleasure to see someone able to use the platform to develop and grow their craft while simultaneously being able to reach thousands, if not millions of people to help build that foundation.

You can check out Meagher’s Etsy store Of Thistle and Thyme, and be sure to connect with her on Instagram at @ofthistleandthyme and also on Facebook at facebook.com/ofthistleandthyme.

Women of Woodworking – Motoko Smith, San Diego, CA

6 May

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In a day and age where women are striving to have it all, Motoko Smith is no different. This San Diego based homemaker and part-time woodturner has found a way to blend together her family life and passion to create unique wooden bowls and turnings.

Smith stumbled onto woodworking as she explored creative outlets for herself while maintaing a three child household. “I had just taken a pottery class six months before, and I was enjoying it. Then my husband’s work schedule changed and it conflicted with my pottery class schedule….I still wanted to have a creative outlet so when I searched for a class in my neighborhood that allows me to take it, it was the woodworking class at the local adult school. And I fell in love with working with wood!”

Motoko Smith

Motoko Smith

When asked if she thought her gender had affected her experience in woodworking, Smith shares that her experience has been great, “Everyone is extremely nice in this community. Is it because of my gender in the male dominant field? I just think woodworkers are the nicest people anyway!” She also doesn’t think her gender has influenced her work in any way.

Apricot Bowl by Motoko Smith

Apricot Bowl by Motoko Smith

Smith’s favorite piece so far is a natural edge Apricot bowl. It came from the stump of a tree a man was giving away for free on Craigslist. “I didn’t know when I picked up the stump, but he was selling the house where he had the Apricot tree.  When I contacted him again to give him one of the bowls I made from the stump, he was so happy and he shared stories about the tree.  He told me that he was sad to see the stump go, but now he is happy that he can take a part of the stump (the bowl) to wherever he gets settled after selling the house.  And that made me really happy and proud of the bowl.”

Apricot Bowl by Motoko Smith

Apricot Bowl by Motoko Smith

Like most turners and woodworkers, Smith’s design process revolves around the piece of wood she’s selected. “I have my favorite shapes she it comes to bowls; they are simple. Then I look at wood and decide what’s possible with the characteristics I observe: grain direction, natural edge, end grain or long grain, spalted wood and etc.”

Smith is also making her way in writing about the craft. “I’m writing columns for a Japanese DIY/Woodworking about my Woodworking-related learning experiences in states.  I’ve never thought my writing gets published because it’s not my thing even in my mother language.  So I’m grateful for this opportunity. “

Motoko Smith

Motoko Smith

When it comes to the future of women in the field, Smith shares “I would love to see a woman woodworker to be legendary like Maloof, Nakashima….And I hope that inspires next generations to come.”

You can view more of Smith’s work on her Instagram account @leointhewoods or at her website motokosmith.com