In Interviews

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We’re interviewing makers from all 50 states. Today we’re featuring Jenny Boles, a woodworker from Kentucky. 

How did you get started woodworking? Who were your mentors?
I have always had a love for building and creating things, even as a young child. As a little girl I would wander off into the woods by our house and constantly build myself clubhouses. After a couple weeks, I would tear it down and build a new one. Looking back, I realized that my passion wasn’t actually having a clubhouse, but what I loved was building and designing them. As I grew into a young adult I began down the path of home improvement and DIY as many of us do. As my tool collection and knowledge began to grow, I began to experiment with building small furniture and cabinetry. It didn’t take long before I began spending nearly every spare moment building pieces. In my early years I didn’t really have any mentors, I didn’t even know any other people who liked to work with wood. Towards my mid-twenties I began working with a man at my day job who was also a woodworker. We bounced ideas off of each other and he encouraged my adventurous spirit and patiently answered as many questions as he could. He introduced me to the scroll saw and encouraged me to keep practicing and advancing my techniques and designs.

What do you think is your best or favorite work? What kind of work do you do the most?
I really enjoy making smaller scale, very detailed pieces. I make a lot of fancy keepsake boxes and use the scroll saw to add intricate design features. A lot of my work involves the scroll saw. I use it to make three-dimensional wall art, decorative features on boxes, playful décor figurines, and inlay work on small tabletops and decorative serving trays.

What advice would you give to someone that wants to start woodworking or pursue it as a profession?
I would tell someone just starting out, that at some point you just have to turn off the YouTube videos and jump in there and start building something. You’ll make mistakes, but you will learn from those mistakes and continue to build on that knowledge. Without a doubt, the best lessons I’ve learned and the most growth I’ve achieved in the woodshop, are from the many mistakes I have made. Don’t be afraid to mess up, try new things, and figure out what works and what doesn’t. When I am asked how I learned to woodwork, I always say I invested an enormous amount of hours into figuring out how to fix all of my mistakes. Becoming really successful at your craft takes time, investment, and perseverance. My advice would be to invest the time, be willing to learn from your mistakes, and continue to challenge yourself. To become really successful as a woodworker, you have to make woodworking a priority in your life. You have to repeatedly carve out the time in your day and make sacrifices to ensure you invest enough of yourself into the craft.

What’s your best hands-on tip or woodworking technique?
It took me a long time to embrace the practice of making mock-ups, templates, and very detailed drawings. Since I have started investing in the prep time of any project or piece, the whole process seems to flow much smoother and the quality of my work has increased. I love using different thicknesses of matte board to mock up a smaller version of a piece I will be building, particularly with small tables or large boxes. This helps me visualize the final proportions as well as envision potential construction problems or weaknesses I may need to address before I start building the actual piece. I also spend a significant amount of time making templates for more detailed portions of a design. For example, I may cut out a leg design or lid pull for a keepsake box. I keep all of these templates and now have quite a collection to choose from or modify when designing new pieces.

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, there are so many talented and inspiring woodworkers out there. I would like to encourage people to check out the woodworking community on Instagram. One of the very first people I started following was Guy Dunlap @guyswoodshop he is a fantastic woodworker and I learned so much from him and his videos. He gives great tips and advice and has produced some gorgeous pieces. I am also a big fan of Timothy Coleman @timcolemanfurniture . His work is so masterfully elegant, his joinery is flawless, and he is someone I really admire and look up to as a woodworker. More recently I have been following Jihae @jihaewoodworks. Her work is so stunning. Her pieces feel so modern and fresh with beautiful clean lines. There are so many others that I admire and that inspire me. But here are 3 of my favorites, I hope you check them out on Instagram.

See more of Jenny’s work on her Etsy or on Instagram @willowswoodworks

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