We’re interviewing makers from all 50 states. Today we’re featuring Angela Hollis, a carpenter from Alabama.
How did you get started woodworking? Who were your mentors?
My greatest influence in becoming a maker and builder was my grandfather who taught me from the time I was 5 years old that it didn’t matter if I was a girl, I should be able to handle my own business. For him, “business” meant taking care of things for yourself. If something broke, we fixed it. If there was something that needed building, we built it! He was a home builder and I was by his side, fetching tools and learning the measure and cut for as long as I can remember. I started rehabbing furniture and building for myself and friends as an amateur interior designer and that led to a full on passion for woodworking and desire to build a business and life for myself in carpentry. I get tons of inspiration and help from the online woodworking community and local craftspeople I’m lucky enough to know.
What do you think is your best or favorite work? What kind of work do you do the most?
My favorite thing to build is a window seat. For me, window seats mean connection. As I am building window seats into a client’s home, I think of the conversations and “life” that is going to happen there. Whether it’s in a little girl’s bedroom window, or the family kitchen, there will be laughter, tears, homework, cups of tea, and LIFE shared on that simple structure I leave for them. I build many, many window seats as well as custom wall units with shelving for family treasures, books and storage. Another popular build for me is the “mudroom locker” or cubby systems that transform a regular hallway or storage room into a functioning drop zone and command center for the family. It’s amazing what we can squeeze into 18 inches of floor space!
What advice would you give to someone that wants to start woodworking or pursue it as a profession?
The most important piece of advice I think any beginning woodworker should hear is to take things at your own pace. Start where you are, with what you have. You won’t be “Instagram Perfect” the first week, maybe not the first year. But, strive to learn a new skill and buy a new tool each month. If you don’t know how to do something ask! Google and YouTube are your friends. I read a note somewhere when I first started that said, “Make the next job you accept be one you don’t have the tool for or know how to do.” I LOVE this, and live by it. This is what keeps me learning and growing. If I only did what I’m comfortable doing, I’d never be able to grow my business.
What’s your best hands-on tip or woodworking technique?
My residential carpentry instructor in the tech school course I took when I first started charging money for my work told our class, “You will be a good carpenter, but it’s learning to fix your mistakes that will make you a great carpenter.” Taking time to go over your work and really get to know the wood before you even begin will save time and the heartache when things don’t go well with a project. Plan, plan, plan! It doesn’t matter if no one else can decipher your drawings, take the time to do them anyway. Visualize what it will take to actually put the project together and work through one step at a time. Check your lumber for square, sand out rough spots, line up and plane your boards/sheets before you glue up. Take your time and maybe you won’t have to pull apart quite as many pieces of furniture as I did when I started!
Is there anyone you’d like to shout-out or recommend we follow? Who inspires you? (Doesn’t have to be woodworking related, either.)
This is a tough one, because SO much of my daily inspiration and knowledge comes from the online woodworking community. Two people I try and check in with every week (every day if I can) are @woodenmaven (Char) and @overkillwoodcraft (Matt). I tell EVERY woman hustling to start up to read Girl, Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis (no relation). She also has a terrific Instagram presence. I also recommend following #womenwhobuild on Instagram.
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