Birth of a Woodworker
At the age of 24, while living In Israel and spending time at the home of my father-in-law Bill Brockmon, a gifted sculptor and craftsman himself, I picked up one of his wood planes, put it against a rough piece of olive wood and – like that piece of wood – my life as a woodworker was innately formed.
Bill introduced me to James Krenov’s work and wood-crafting philosophy – which became the standard inspiration for my own work.I read everything I could about woodworking and just began to build pieces, teaching myself along the way through trial and error.Gradually, I discovered that the wood itself was my greatest teacher. I continued to apprentice to this wood for several years, creating custom furniture and pieces, honing my craft further.
The Forever Journey
For two decades, I combined private woodworking with a construction business and eventually teaching – but my most fulfilling work was to be made in my shop, working with these tools and wood. I created a variety of pieces for my family that have become essential elements of our lives.
A cradle for my children, which was eventually used by nieces, nephews and, someday, grandchildren.
A wedding canopy (chuppah) for our niece’s wedding, which was then used for every family marriage.
A table for family celebrations
At the age of 94, my father-in-law Bill went into hospice care. Knowing that his death was only weeks away haunted me. And planning for this event with people in the ‘funeral business’ discouraged me.The culmination of his life was not about business. It was not a formula. It could not be found in a commercial catalogue.
It was a personal, organic process.
How could his death be honored on a level that equaled and respected the story of his life?I was compelled to build his casket myself.Every stage of this process was filled with sadness and nostalgia, but also with tremendous joy. I was guided by the wonderful memories I had of him. His casket was a creation born out of pieces from a bookshelf he had made, wood we had collected together, and poplar I had collected with his son, my brother-in-law Mike.The feeling that I was building something that would cradle this beloved mento through this next part of his journey was tremendously satisfying.
This experience inspired me to consider all of the passages we go through in life – births, marriages, families growing and changing, aging, death.
I realized I my life’s purpose was to create special pieces to mark these passages.
Cradles to welcome new children and grandchildren. Hope chests. Wedding canopies. Caskets and urns. For family, friends, pets – all of our loved ones.
My creative process continues in all of these pieces – and sharing this process with the people I am creating them for is an essential element.
When I create a custom piece, I talk with my clients, listen to their stories, study their pictures, learn their values, their aesthetics–until I truly understand the person or family for whom this object is being created. Then we work on the design and select the wood and materials together.
For the rest, I still let the wood teach me.