Tag Archives: decor

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.

unnamed-4

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.”

unnamed-2

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.”

unnamed-3

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.

Advertisements

Women of Woodworking – Motoko Smith, San Diego, CA

6 May

unnamed

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

Women of Woodworking – Sarah Marriage, Hoboken, NJ

28 Jan

unnamed-6Sarah Marriage didn’t always know she was meant to be a woodworker. Like most of us the craft sort of found her. In Sarah’s case it was after attending Princeton for architecture as an undergrad. Also like most of us, she yearned to actually make something. Marriage quotes architectural theorist Robin Evans as one of her main inspirations towards becoming an artist, “Architects don’t make buildings; they make drawings of buildings.”

Marriage wanted to design and make something herself using the human scale that inspired her so. She wanted to know that her materials were ethically harvested or produced and that “the other labor with whom I collaborated was treated as well as I treat myself.”

Furniture became her new focus. She moved back to Alaska, got a day job and an apartment and set up her shop in her parent’s heated garage. She didn’t know how to build furniture, but she was going to learn.

unnamed-5

She started off by purchasing “throw-away furniture from Anchorage thrift stores” that she would take apart and and reassemble according to her own design. Hours were spent in bookstores reading anything she could get her hands on to strengthen her knowledge. One day she picked up a book by James Krenov, and his words secured her desire to continue on with furniture making.

Marriage returned to the northeast where she resided in New York City as she worked for Guy Nordenson and Associates Structural Engineers. She then spent a year with her brother and his wife in Baltimore as they rehabilitated their 19th century town home. She also applied to the College of the Redwoods during this time, nearly a decade after first discovering her passion for furniture making. She spent two years there in California and then headed back east where she now shares a shop in Hoboken, NJ with other talented makers, including Thomas Hucker and cuddly Frank the shop cat.

unnamed-4

Marriage pointed out that “in any zone, it seems people have different expectations of men and women,” but also mentioned the different paths that are often taken between the sexes within the craft. “A lot of female woodworkers, including myself, came into our field through art and design education. The traditional pathway to furniture maker, beginning as unskilled labor and working one’s way up through the field to master woodworker: this is typically (not always but typically) a path unavailable to women,” noting that the number of women in the field who started in the traditional shop route are much lower than women who went the academic route.

“Gender isn’t an issue,” says Marriage when she is in the shop or at a school. In other realms of the industry, perhaps a lumber yard, treatment can be much different. “Two weeks ago I went to a new lumber place with another female furniture maker. The first person who interacted with us, as we walked into the yard said “Woah woah where are you goin’?,” thinking we were lost.”

unnamed

She also isn’t afraid to point out that she does accept the extra help when needed, “I have a bad back, and will take as much help as I can when it comes to lifting large planks, but beyond that the help is usually unnecessary, and wouldn’t be offered to a man, and at the end of the day I just want to be treated like the competent woodworker who I am.”

Despite a few negatives encounters over the years Marriage feels like her experiences have been beneficial and mostly for the better. “Over all, I think that I have been lucky. I’ve had predominantly positive experiences. I’ve been put in a handful of rather uncomfortable situations, but I’ve never had anyone actively work against me because of my gender, and often I find that there are strong advocates out there in the world for women woodworkers. We’re also pretty good at sticking together.”

While Marriage doesn’t feel like she currently explores gender within her own art, she is interested in expanding ideas of how we determine the gender roles we try to assign within the styles of our work. “I find it fascinating when I am showing my work in a public setting, like an exhibition opening, that people will discuss the furniture itself in gender terms. ‘That’s beautiful, but that wouldn’t work for me… it’s a lady’s desk, right?’ These kinds of comments happen a lot. People seem to seek out gender in objects (‘is this a his-and-hers set?’), and I encourage broadening those expectations (‘it could be his-and-hers, or hers-and-hers, or his-and-his, or just completely unpaired!’).”

unnamed-2

For the future of women in woodworking Marriage thinks growth, reflection, and hard work are the key. “I would like to see more female woodworkers. To me, that’s the crux” she says. “If there were more female woodworkers the field would be more welcoming to female woodworkers. Of course that’s a chicken-egg situation, so I think the next steps are about both encouraging girls to consider pursuing our field and also looking at our own biases, our own expectations of what people are capable of or might be interested in and working to change those expectations at the same time.”

Marriage has an array of events and projects coming up. She’ll be featured at the prestigious American Craft Council Baltimore Show February 20 – 22nd as part of their HipPop program that features emerging artists. She’ll also be serving as the technical assistant to Jennifer Anderson during the “Environment as Muse” furniture course at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts this summer.

Marriage is also a writer within the craft. She is the co-editor and co-founder, along with Luke Cissell and Cara Sheffler, of Works & Days Quarterly, “an online quarterly of arts, letters, music, and no small amount of craft.” While still in school she published her essay A Call to Practice about learning to be a woodworker.

You can find Sarah Marriage on Instagram at @sarah_marriage or on Facebook too. You can also visit her website at sarahmarriage.com

View the landing page and other interviews for the Women of Woodworking series here.

Women of Woodworking – Leslie Webb, Georgetown, TX

8 Jan
Leslie Webb - Furniture Designer and Maker

Leslie Webb – Furniture Designer and Maker

Leslie Webb is no stranger to the heat. Living outside of Austin, TX, she has forged a career in furniture design/making, creating an impressive portfolio of works and a stellar resume to match.

Leslie’s interest was initially peaked while perusing a handcrafted furniture catalog one morning while working as a nanny on break from college. She mentioned her interest and the father of the family who was an artist employed her to build shipping crates.

Nine months at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine served as her first official foundation in the craft. She went on to attend the Crafts and Design Program at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, and also served as an apprentice under renowned furniture maker Michael Fortune.

As Leslie has now settled into Texas she continues to create limited small batch works as well as large and commercial productions. It is in this moment of her career that one can look both ways and see either a decorated past or a bright future. But her career and her fortitude weren’t built without some fiery tests from the industry as a single young female with obvious talent.

When asked if she felt like her gender had influence the direction of her work or her current emphasis within her craft, Leslie shared “I’m sure it has, though I don’t really have examples. I believe that gender is intrinsic to who we are and how we experience this world. And of course, that affects everything.”

Linda Lou Rocker - Leslie Webb

Linda Lou Rocker – Leslie Webb

You can look at Leslie’s work and see the thoughtful delicacy in the fine angles of her favorite piece, the Linda Lou Rocker. Her approach to gentle strength within her design provides the viewer a feeling of softness intertwined with a striking, modern design. A fantastic blend of the feminine and masculine.

This balance is also sought by many women trying to find their voice within the industry. Webb shared experiences of doubt from men, whether they were selling her lumber at the hardware store or viewing her work on display at a show.

“At a show I did several years ago, I was actually told to my face by another male woodworker that he didn’t know a woman could build furniture, after insisting for 10 minutes that I must have male employees building everything for me. At the time it made me really mad, but now it just makes me sad for the women in his life. I can only imagine how little he must think of their capabilities.”

Webb also mentioned a public disdain for women within the educational realm. “During critiques, if you were a female and had a good crit, inevitably it would be mentioned that you were praised because the critic “loved the ladies”, not because you actually deserved it. It took me a long time to realize that these reactions and interactions actually had nothing to do with me, that they are just reflections of how other people see the world and gender.”

Lola - Leslie Webb

Lola – Leslie Webb

Despite the unfounded doubts in her competency Webb has created a very fine and unique style of design that splendidly combines sharp design with a comfortable feel. Her work has brought her many opportunities and Webb excitedly shared what’s on the horizon for her.

“Currently, I am working on a credenza/sideboard with sliding doors. I am pretty excited about it because it has been awhile since I made a large storage piece. This past fall I collaborated with Shay Spaniola of bunglo.co on a line of textiles for my Lola Lounge Chair. In the next few months, I will be introducing new pieces from that collaboration. I am also planning an upholstered version of the Linda Lou Rocker.”

You can view more of Leslie Webb’s work at lesliewebbdesign.com

Follow her:

@lesliewebbdesign
facebook.com/LeslieWebbDesign

For those wondering, Women of Woodworking is a new writing project I am excited to launch with this post. See this post and more on my Women of Woodworking landing page.

Dwelling’s Local Makers Series (Ketchup 2014 Part II)

27 Jan

As Santa finished his last delivery, Joseph and I went right back to work to prepare for a very exciting opportunity. The lovely Leigh and Tim McAlpin of Charleston, SC’s leading eco-friendly design and furniture store Dwelling chose Joseph Thompson Woodworks and Black Swamp to open their new LOCAL Maker’s Series, featuring the work of talented local furniture makers.

Photo Dec 30, 6 04 29 PM

Photo Jan 03, 2 33 06 PM (1)

Invitation made by Dodeline Design

We were so thrilled to kick of 2014 with an exhibition in our hometown. Since we wanted to give our friends and family the best we had to offer, there were many a late night spent in preparation, especially after we had not one, but TWO boards for table tops blow up in the planer during construction.

Photo Jan 07, 1 03 03 AM

We did manage to document a bit of the construction process despite our hectic schedule: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xd4RgZDnDcc

Once the dust had settled, the show opened beautifully and we were happy to celebrate with our friends and family.

Photo by Sea Star Arts Photography, Courtesy of Dwelling

Photo by Sea Star Arts Photography, Courtesy of Dwelling

New Black Swamp cuff bracelets and necklace styles were launched to a very positive reception. This piece features local South Carolina Black Walnut wood.

Photo by Sea Star Arts Photography, Courtesy of Dwelling

Photo by Sea Star Arts Photography, Courtesy of Dwelling

Charleston’s new High Wire Distillery provided their delicious locally crafted spirits, making the event a fully local event.

Photo by Sea Star Arts Photography, Courtesy of Dwelling

Photo by Sea Star Arts Photography, Courtesy of Dwelling

A few more of my favorite snaps from the opening…..

JWTW Dwelling FB-27

Photo by Sea Star Arts Photography, Courtesy of Dwelling

JWTW Dwelling FB-57

Photo by Sea Star Arts Photography, Courtesy of Dwelling

Photo by Sea Star Arts Photography, Courtesy of Dwelling

Photo by Sea Star Arts Photography, Courtesy of Dwelling

Photo by Sea Star Arts photography, courtesy of Dwelling

Photo by Sea Star Arts photography, courtesy of Dwelling

Photo by Sea Star Arts Photography, courtesy of Dwelling

Photo by Sea Star Arts Photography, courtesy of Dwelling

Photo by Sea Star Arts Photography, courtesy of Dwelling

Photo by Sea Star Arts Photography, courtesy of Dwelling

Thanks to the talented Jeni Becker of Sea Star Arts Photography for the wonderful photos, see more snaps from the party here. Thanks also to High Wire Distilling, Dodeline Design, and of course, Leigh and Tim McAlpin of Dwelling for hosting us.

In addition to the opening, we also held a “Meet the Maker” session at Charleston’s first Second Sunday on King for the new year. It was a beautiful day and I loved meeting new people and seeing some old friends, too.

Courtesy of @JWTWoodworks

Courtesy of @JWTWoodworks

The show will be on view at Dwelling until Sunday, February 9th, which will close with another “Meet the Makers” session from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. Dwelling is located at 165 King St, Charleston, SC.

Check out some wonderful press the show has received from the Charleston City Paper, The Scout Guide, Post & Courier, and Design Feast’s Design Feaster.

Thank you to all of our friends, family, fans, collaborators, and everyone who had even the smallest part in making this show possible. We have been overwhelmed with the support from our hometown, we are so grateful and blessed to have such love in our lives.

From Start to Finish

28 Oct

I was digging through last year’s files a few nights ago and found something really special with an interesting story behind it.

About a year ago at 2012’s Fall High Point Market Joseph and I sat down on a slow afternoon in our space to get some administrative work done.  We were exhausted in the midst of our first showing at High Point and I remember saying “Let’s try to make something positive come out of these few hours.”

After a few minutes of chatting about different work topics we ended up talking about new design inspirations we had in mind. We both had been exploring different seating options so we began to elaborate on that mutual thread.

I think one thing that really helps Joseph and I understand each other as individual designers is that we both find inspiration for designs often from the most unexpected places. Joseph once found a leg shape for a table by looking at a shade drawn on an airplane window just so. While this is exciting and always intriguing, often times our initial sketches end up looking something like this:

2013-10-24 19.03.13

2013-10-24 19.03.19

While these hieroglyphs may look impossible to decipher, once I found the paper I showed it to Joseph and we immediately began to trace the progression of the design from where we went from a single back rail to three, where I drew my vision for the initial overall shape of the piece and so on. It was quite neat for us to look at these scratched down shapes and know it was a map in a language that only we could understand.

We were really brought full circle when we put them next to the finished product, our latest dining chair design at Joseph Thompson Woodworks.

2013-09-12 08.02.26Now it all makes sense, doesn’t it?!

Finding that scribbly piece of paper really reminded me of why Joseph and I do what we do and just how powerful the combination of inspiration and positive energy can be.  I hadn’t thought of that tired afternoon till I found that piece of paper and suddenly I became very pleased that this design progressed so naturally and beautifully despite it’s conception occurring in not the most exciting or pleasant of circumstances.

I thought this little story would give an interesting glimpse into our process as designers and makers. Sure, some incredible ideas come from great brainstorming sessions with a crisp sketchpad and freshly sharpened pencils with precise measurements made with a straight edge, but sometimes all you have is a beverage napkin, your third cup of coffee for the day and bags under your eyes. But when that inspiration hits you in the most inopportune of times you better grab a pen and whatever paper you’ve got and get to work.

National and Family Treasures

3 Sep

I’ve always been a bit obsessed with American History, even as a child. My ideal vacation was a trip to Gettysburg instead of a theme park, even at the age of 9.

I also grew up with a family who loved to thrift and go “antiquing.” I still love seeing my Uncle’s antique war memorabilia collection or the vintage goodies my sister finds at her job at an antique store.

Family heirlooms are definitely the most special antiques of all. Not only do they combine years of history and age with sentimental family memories, sometimes, every once in a while, they can also be incredible historical artifacts.

My husband Joseph is basically a descendant of early American “royalty.” He is a descendant of some very notable names that made history throughout the Colonial and Civil War eras. Since he is also an incredibly talented furniture maker, it was only fitting that he got to take on a very special task over Labor Day weekend.

One of Joseph’s famous ancestors is a Founding Father, Thomas Nelson Jr. He was one of the first Governors of Virginia, as well as a member of the House of Burgesses, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Being from Yorktown, VA, his estate was taken over by Cornwallis to be his headquarters during the infamous Battle of Yorktown. Being an ardent patriot, supposedly Nelson offered money to Continental soldiers to destroy his home during the battle.

So why the history lesson? And where do family heirlooms fit into this? Well, Thomas Nelson Jr.’s incredible four-poster mahogany bed has survived and stayed in Joseph’s family for generations.

photo9

Made using traditional woodworking methods that Joseph and I still use in all of our designs today, the bed is a magnificent piece of craftsmanship that has been loved and cared for over the ages by the family. At the request of the family member who now cares for it, Joseph had the honor to take the bed apart and examine it while renovations were being made to the room it is now kept in.

The rails are connected using double mortise and tenon joints.

photo10

Double Tenons on the ends of the rails.

Double Mortise on the posts.

Double Mortise on the posts.

The original maker's mark of "4" to identify matching posts and rails to help in putting the bed back together when taken apart.

The original maker’s mark of “4” to identify matching posts and rails to help in putting the bed back together when taken apart.

The bolts that are used to hold the rails to the posts are original, save for the head of one that was welded onto the original after it was broken. The iron mattress hangers and fasteners are all original. The visible part of the bed has been refinished, the back of the headboard is black with age and expired varnish.

photo6

The carving on the bed’s posts and headboard are absolutely magnificent. The wood is undoubtedly virgin growth mahogany which is pretty much obsolete these days.

photo4

photo8

The bed is now used as a four-poster style bed, however it is originally a teester-style bed, the brass adornments are kept in storage however the original fabric is long gone, lost to the ages.

Another notable characteristic about the bed is it’s size. Although it is a queen sized bed, it is much smaller than today’s queen beds, as people were much smaller in stature 250 years ago. Another testament to traditional woodworking techniques is that despite it’s age and several moves across the country to different family members over the years, it is in excellent condition with no structural damage. Beds made even 50 years ago with modern joinery and fasteners may fall apart before this bed will. It is also unknown whether or not this bed was brought over from England or made in the states.

Perhaps my favorite part of the bed, and a testament to the original maker’s eye for detail are these wonderful carved rosettes that cover the bolts on the posts.

photo7

While I was sad to not have been there personally for the deconstruction, I hope to be there when Joseph returns to put it the bed back together. I know it was a very special moment for him to examine such an important piece of American history, his family’s history, and also an incredible source of inspiration for our own furniture work today.

All photos provided by Joseph Thompson.

Side note: I posted a photo of the bed over the weekend to my Instagram page, and low and behold one of my followers and Charleston neighbors is also a descendant of Nelson. It’s a small world after all, folks!