We’re interviewing makers from all 50 states. Today we’re featuring Baboucarr Faal, a woodworker and philanthropist from Virginia.
How did you get started woodworking? Who were your mentors?
As someone who studied Engineering, my 9-5 isn’t remotely close to working with my hands or creating. Woodworking has given me that outlet to pursue my desire to create. I truly enjoy designing and planning projects, especially things I have never attempted. Maybe it’s the thrill of the unknown or the satisfaction of figuring it out. So, when my daughter was born she needed a dresser so I decided I was going to build one. I looked around the internet to see if it’s something I could tackle on my own. By that time I had already accumulated a few tools from remodeling my house so I found the confidence to build using a plan from Ana-White.com. During that time period, I also founded an organization called Together for Gambia (TFG) with a mission of tackling poverty in my birth country of Gambia. So I thought, what better way to marry the two passions of mine than to use woodworking as a means of fundraising for TFG by donating proceeds of my builds! Charity Builds was born!
I don’t really have mentors, but I had Ana-White plans to give me the confidence and understanding that much of woodworking is strategically taking big pieces and cutting them into little pieces and then putting them back together. I know I’m oversimplifying it but, it just clicked. Oh and YouTube! A lot of credit goes to the woodworking community online!
What do you think is your best or favorite work? What kind of work do you do the most?
The most meaningful piece to date is the dresser I made for my daughter for obvious reasons. The kids are using it to this day. I recently swapped out the old runners and it’s still kicking. Another piece that I made that stands out is an epoxy and birds eye maple coffee table I donated to a charity event honoring the Minister of Justice of The Gambia for his awesome work regarding the genocide against the Rohingya in Myanmar.
As far as my best work, it’s a tossup between a Mid Century Desk and a Hallway Bench I just completed. With every day I spend in my shop, woodworking is becoming a true passion of mine, and every passing year my skills are growing and my ambitions are bigger. I find myself drawn to building modern furniture.
What advice would you give to someone that wants to start woodworking or pursue it as a profession?
This is a tough one because I still consider myself a novice in this space. What I can say that’s not really specific to woodworking but applies is to DARE TO BE DIFFERENT and JUST DO IT! While you’re at it, you will make mistakes because of lack of knowledge, tools, and for no reason other than the fact that we are human and even the pros screw up. What you learn during those mistakes (if you don’t know, ask) will hone your skills. Also, find your niche and build things you like to build. You will get to a point where trendy builds don’t excite you or the crowd, so following the crowd is not the way to go to keep that passion burning.
What’s your best hands-on tip or woodworking technique?
Be inspired because the details matter! More of a design/aesthetics tip than a technique is to be a “sponge.” When it comes to design and building, I’ve come to realize that there are a myriad of ways to achieve comparable results. There are also many styles that are great in their own right. What I’ve found successful so far is being able to see different styles and implementation methods, and adapting a design or build to take a little here and a little there to get to a final product. You end up going in circles a bit but the end product will be well-composed.
Is there anyone you’d like to shout-out or recommend we follow? Who inspires you? (Doesn’t have to be woodworking related, either.)
Wow, I think it would be wrong to name names in the woodworking community because the community has been really great to me. I will shout out the small but growing number of people of color in the woodworking space. With the current environment, it’s important we highlight the amazing strides being made, so shout out to the woodworking community.
As for inspiration, I have to go with Scott Harrison, founder of Charity Water. His journey of parlaying his skills as a former club promoter to one of the leading voices in water and sanitation around the globe is epic. Club promoter and philanthropy appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum but he realized that there is a skill of galvanizing, a skill of marketing, and a skill of design that crosses over to a world where you rely on coaxing the support and goodness of people. This is the reason why I wanted to use my furniture to share my journey into philanthropy. So that every owner of a Charity Builds piece will know that their commissioned build contributed to creating a livelihood project for someone they will never meet thousands of miles away.
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