Shrewd Woodworks began in 2014 while I was attending Gary Rogowski’s Northwest Woodworking Studio, training to become a hand tool focused furniture maker. My path was well paved by the amazing group of individuals at my back in the Office of Veteran’s Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation Office, who believed in me when I told them I was determined to break through the limitations of PTSD incurred during a deployment to the Middle East in 2005.
I succeeded in acquiring the schooling and graduated from the Northwest Studio in 2017.
It sounds simple enough, perhaps it could have been simple, but…
The more I learned of man-powered craftsmanship, the more I realized the industrial production of the modern day is unsustainable. Wasteful. Irreverent to the materials and processes that are required to create enduring works of artistic usefulness. Beautiful form and function surround us everyday, but there was something essential that felt wrong to me. I was making some beautiful pieces myself, but there was something missing, or maybe it was something extra, attached to my pieces. I felt a twinge of guilt looking at every piece I made.
I was creating at too high a moral expense. I didn’t know where my lumber was coming from, what cost it collected from the Earth when forests were being felled and transported and kiln dried in terrifying quantities. My rough materials perfectly packaged into a conveniently consumable product, with the environment footing the bill.
So I added ethics to my personal mix of requirements for my projects. Which can either add to my materials costs, or my labor expenditures. As a poor veteran there was only one viable option, so I’ve been rolling up my sleeves every morning since.
And it has changed everything. I’ve obsessed in studying how humans were crafting from wood long before the Industrial Revolution, when it was often one human, one tree, and a few hand tools. Nothing goes to waste, no extra costs to the environment. To succeed in merging form, function and ethics in a single work, one must indeed be shrewd.
This is my passion. Taking my projects from the very beginning too a finished piece. Studying every step along the way and feeling how every revelation affects my perspectives of the wider world.
I’ve begun branching out into the ethical and eco-friendly processing of livestock furs and hides, hoping to add another aspect of interest into my creations and making these materials available to other makers who have a focus on ethically sourced products, while once again making something fine from what would have otherwise been wasted.
I’ve never been so in love with my work, and the more passionate I become for my work, and the more I learn, the more I want to share it all with others. So making has become teaching, teaching has drawn me into writing, writing pushes for more research and then I’m learning again. It’s a lovely cycle, rediscovering human simplicity by embracing the complexity of larger nature. Everyone should try it, I’d love to help you begin.