Tag Archives: style

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.

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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.

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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.

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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…..

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Photo by Sea Star Arts Photography, Courtesy of Dwelling

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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.

Ketchup 2014 Part I

24 Jan

Happy New Year Everyone!

Since I haven’t posted to my blog since November, it’s safe to say the past few months were a total blur and as well as a blast. I did manage to snap a few photos and explore some awesome new things since November, so here is Part I of the great Katie Thompson Ketchup of 2014.

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I recently started a new series of “wood paintings” using my beloved wood shavings. I developed this technique from my Art with a BANGS project in which I first used the process on a pair of tennis shoes.

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We celebrated a wonderful Thanksgiving with our families and had a lot to be grateful for. We enjoyed a week of “rest” before Joseph and I headed off to…..

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Chicago! One of my favorite places in the world. Joseph and I exhibited our Joseph Thompson Woodworks designs at the One of a Kind Show at the Merchandise Mart again this year.

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We did manage to sneak away to find some fun and inspiration during our visit. We enjoyed a comedic performance over a cold beer at the famous Second City, and upon our arrival we were promptly placed in the front row and both heckled accordingly by the comics. Our faces hurt for the next 24 hours from laughing so hard.

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We also saw some really interesting wooden items during our stay. A delightful visit to our space at the show wore this amazing Big Leaf Maple Burl vintage top hat:

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Also spotted at The Field Museum was this breathtaking woven shawl made from tree bark. It was exhibited back at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.

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While at the Field Museum we also enjoyed an exhibition of rising contemporary Native American artist Bunky Echo-Hawk’s work, “Modern Warrior.”

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Other highlights of the trip included a magnificent meal at Chicago’s new Peruvian delight, Tanta. The Clasico Ceviche was amazingly balanced (I actually ENJOYED eating a habanero pepper) and the service was outstanding. Also on the walls are some amazing work by the talented contemporary muralist Jeff Zimmerman.

Upon our return, we dashed down to SpaceCraft Studios in Charleston for the Avondale Holiday Winterfest. While torrential rains shook the event up, we made the best of it and had a blast meeting new local makers and sharing some Black Swamp jewelry.

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I also had the pleasure of making a quick day trip with friends to Columbia, SC to enjoy Annie Leibowitz’s “Pilgrimage” exhibition at the Columbia Museum of Art (no photos were allowed, sadly.) We also enjoyed a unforgettably delicious and locally sourced lunch at Motor Supply Co. Bistro.

Finally, the Christmas holiday arrived and Joseph and I enjoyed out very first Christmas tree together. After speaking with friends who have purchased potted trees for years, we decided to get a potted Deodara Cedar from a local grower for our Christmas tree. We bought our first set of vintage recycled Christmas ornaments from maker Beth Dalton of Charleston, and will be planting the tree before winter is over so we can enjoy our first holiday together in our new place for years to come.

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Phew! That was quite a few weeks. I’ll be back to share updates from the new year next.

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:

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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.

Events and New Work – September 2013

29 Aug

As a busy summer draws to a close and Labor day nears, I wanted to take a minute to share some upcoming events and also new work from the past month or so.

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As many of you already know I recently launched Black Swamp in June. Black Swamp is a naturally inspired accessories line that features my jewelry creations using recycled wood shavings from our furniture designs for Joseph Thompson Woodworks, as well as copper, sterling silver, brass and other fine materials. As of now my designs are available through my online store, blackswamp.co.

Photo by Jen Ray for Black Swamp.

Photo by Jen Ray for Black Swamp.

Black Swamp received some great press over the summer with an inclusion in Charleston Magazine’s print issue for August 2013 as well as a divine feature by Elizabeth Bowers for CHARLIE Magazine in July.

I also had the opportunity to shoot this amazing portrait for Black Swamp with Joseph Nienstedt of JWNPhoto a few weeks ago!

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I told you it was a busy summer! And I’m just getting started.

Next weekend, I am thrilled for Black Swamp and Joseph Thompson Woodworks to team up with Gris Galerie for the OPEN Arts Expo at the College of Charleston Cistern Sunday September 8th from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

This will be Black Swamp’s first event ever! I am so pleased for my designs to be making their official debut in Charleston. In addition to Black Swamp baubles, we’ll be bringing a few furniture, decor and wall hanging pieces for Joseph Thompson Woodworks. Click over to our Current Work page on our website or our Etsy shop to get a sneak peek at a few items that might make an appearance.

Again, I couldn’t be happier to hang out with our hometown crowd and show some new designs for the very first time! The support we’ve received from our home base has been incredible, and we can’t wait to celebrate in gratitude with you!

In other news, for those that do not know I am also the Membership Coordinator for a local SC Community Supported Agriculture program, Pinckney’s Produce. We’re gearing up to start our fall harvest season Tuesday, September 17th. If you’re in the Lowcountry or Midlands of SC and are interested in having over 45 different varieties of fresh, local SC grown produce delivered to a convenient location once a week for three months, then definitely give Pinckney’s a look! We have a great food community growing across the state, come be a part of something fun and tasty with me.

Phew! Okay. Just looking at what lies ahead this month has got me tired! I am looking forward to an exciting and busy month ahead. Thanks for all of the support, and I hope to see a few of you out and about over the next few weeks!

Springtime wanders into the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

30 Apr

I recently had the pleasure of staying a weekend in Chapel Hill, NC. Expecting to be completely run over by students all day, it was a nice, quiet paced weekend to roam about the historic University of North Carolina campus.

Our friends in the area raved about the beauty of  the UNC campus and could not wait to give us the grand tour.  Needless to say we were not disappointed. Being the oldest public university in the United States the UNC at Chapel Hill campus boasts examples of numerous iconic architectural styles. Walking through campus is like a tour through the ages as a wide variety of species of trees all over campus drape your path. There are also fantastic little architectural gems hidden along the way – an unexpected tunnel, a gargoyle curiously perched along the side of a building it was not originally built into…..the sights on campus can even get downright weird sometimes. What’s even more spectacular is that there are stories – fact or fiction – for nearly every building, plant, or unique quirk on campus.

We started off by visiting the legendary Moorehead-Patterson bell tower surrounded by lush, green gardens. What really caught my eye as we got closer was the stunning blue tile that lined the Gothic cathedral ceilings of the breezeways.

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An obligatory long hallway shot:

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What is especially brilliant about this location of campus is that right behind this very traditional red-bricked structure is a fabulous science building with a strong industrial-brutal style. The building is also connected to several others built at different times.

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And then not far up the road – almost within shouting distance – is this brand new, gorgeous modern glass building.

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We then strolled further it across campus, taking note of the magnificent Greek Revival-style Louis Round Wilson library and it’s surrounding buildings – a few were built as early as 1793, others at the beginning of the 1900’s or later.

We eventually made our way to the Coker Aboretum, which is filled with plants and trees form all over the world. This entrance to the arboretum is so fantastic you almost feel as though you are entering another world.

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Other highlights of the arboretum included an impressive collection of Japanese Maple trees, and also this guy:

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These beauties made a little “ring” when you shook them.

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I could go on forever (and post about that many pictures, too) about how truly fantastic the arboretum was. As we finished up the path the light was getting lower we decided to make moves towards Franklin St. We of course stopped and saw the iconic Old Well which doubles as the symbol for the university. I was also particularly taken with the fantastic harvest crown on the top of the columns in front of the Playmaker’s Theatre.

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We eventually made our way to the Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery for some local brews. I recommend their award winning Ram’s Head IPA or their Blueridge Blueberry Wheat for something refreshing and unexpected.

If you follow me on social media, you’ll have noticed in the past weeks I have shared my fascination of this campus several times over, however this post merely scratches the surface of an impressive array of the buildings, character, and the award winning design of the UNC campus. If you are ever passing through I highly recommend a long walk and a quiet moment to enjoy a wonderful display of history and architecture.