As part of our Woodworking in America initiative, we’re interviewing makers from all 50 states. Today we’re featuring Alma Villalobos, a woodworker and artist from Illinois.
How did you get started woodworking? Who were your mentors?
For as long as I can remember I’ve always been a maker. My grandfather was a professional DIYer. He always said he could make anything. So I guess I got that from him. When my son was born (he’s almost 7 now!), that’s when I really started to focus more on the Woodworking craft. I wanted to build furniture and make wooden toys for him. And it was also a way for me to relax/learn/create when the baby was asleep. I started to really enjoy the process, and slowly upgraded most of my “weekend warrior” tools for more professional type tools and brands. And I’m now trying to add more hand tools and attempt more complicated joinery techniques. Always trying to learn more and get better at this craft.
What do you think is your best or favorite work? What kind of work do you do the most?
My favorite work is probably the Record Storage Cabinet I built last year. It’s super simple with clean lines, the wow feature is the way I made the drawers. I used common hardware to create a slider so that the records always stood forward. Most of the work I do is with my CNC. I have a relatively small machine, it’s an Iconic CNC. I guess I’m kind of known for making custom push sticks for other makers. And that sort of spilled into other custom shop-made tools, such as custom squares and custom mallets. It’s a lot of fun working with other makers. I’m a big advocate for branding all the things.
What advice would you give to someone that wants to start woodworking or pursue it as a profession?
I think the obvious answer is to say, just go for it and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Which is true, but I would add that it’s important to find a community that you can ask questions and learn from. For me that was Instagram. The woodworking community on Instagram has always been so supportive.
What’s your best hands-on tip or woodworking technique?
I’m a big fan of using a story stick or making a quick template, verse using a tape measure. I’ve been able to get just a bit more accurate results that way. Plus math… yuck. Oh, and the tape measure should have Imperial and Metric on it. Learn metric!
Is there anyone you’d like to shout-out or recommend we follow? Who inspires you? (Doesn’t have to be woodworking related, either.)
Oooh I love seeing what Siosi Design (@siosidesign) is up to. They’re a female duo making beautiful furniture out of Indiana.
I would love to one day own one of their pieces but also I would love to learn how to design and build something similar to their style.
I’ve also been super inspired by House of Esperanza (@house.of.esperanza) lately. I love what Monica shares in her stories and her decorating style is really bold and fresh. Monica and her husband make some pretty cool DIY builds.