In Interviews

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We’re interviewing makers from all 50 states. Today we’re featuring Elizabeth Spotswood Spencer, an artist from North Carolina. 

How did you get started woodworking? Who were your mentors?
While I was at art school, studying drawing and painting, I took a woodworking course. Immediately, I was drawn to building and using my hands in a different way. Wood inherently became a canvas while woodworking provided a needed context to create within.

Then, I quit art school and met my first mentor, Brent Skidmore, who was teaching woodworking at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC. Then I transferred to Murray State University in Murray KY, because they offered a program in woodworking that was equivalent to functional sculpture. There I met Paul Sasso, whom I still hear in my head when I start to have doubts. Eventually, I received my MFA from the University of Dartmouth in New Bedford, MA with Steve Whittlesey. He was equally as wonderful.

What do you think is your best or favorite work? What kind of work do you do the most?
I think of my work like children, I love them all, but some are easier than others. I make a lot of carved and figurative pieces with small drawers and odd functions.

What advice would you give to someone that wants to start woodworking or pursue it as a profession?
Surround yourself with a community of woodworkers. Woodworkers are fun, interesting and smart. They will share your interests and help you.

Protect your eyes, your lungs, and your fingers…. I mean it!

Spend some money on a tool that you like and you that use the most. Make sure you can fix it. I would also investigate someone whose work you admire and see if you can take a class with them.

What’s your best hands-on tip or woodworking technique?
Ok people, I like to carve. I have a piece of ¾” MDF with jeweler’s rouge smeared on top. It works just like using a leather strop to maintain sharpness, but I like using the MDF better…don’t hate.

Is there anyone you’d like to shout-out or recommend we follow? Who inspires you? (Doesn’t have to be woodworking related, either.)
Katie Hudnall is killing it right now. She is a fun and amazingly talented woodworker. Sylvie Rosenthal is also a wonder-woman woodworker.

I am inspired by a lot of different craft artists like ceramicist Christina Cordova and fiber artist Anna Torma.

I also love places like Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. They are dedicated environments that nurture talent in multiple forms and skill levels.

See more of Elizabeth’s work on her website or on Instagram @elizabeth_spotswood.

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