We’re interviewing makers from all 50 states. Today we’re featuring Larissa Huff, a maker and woodworking instructor from Pennsylvania.
How did you get started woodworking? Who were your mentors?
Like so many traditional craftspeople before me, I started woodworking by answering a Craigslist ad. After college, I moved to a new city and was in search of a teaching job. I hadn’t transferred my teaching certificate from FL to PA yet so, I was looking for non-traditional instructor jobs to hold me over. Jeffry Lohr was looking for a woodworking apprentice with teaching skills and some understanding of the internet. The job sounded so interesting, I applied, I was hired, and I committed to a two-year apprenticeship. After the first day in the shop, I knew this was it. I didn’t know anything about woodworking before that day but have not wanted to do anything else since. Jeff was/is my mentor and taught me everything about furniture-making, sawmilling, and running a small business. With social media, organizations, and schools/classes, I count myself lucky to exist in a time where I am constantly learning from fellow woodworkers as well.
What do you think is your best or favorite work? What kind of work do you do the most?
I primarily make furniture but like to dabble in smaller pieces with sculptural elements too. My favorite piece of work is probably a small jewelry cabinet I made in 2018. It is not my most technically impressive piece, but the sentimental value gives it a special place. I designed it in honor of my late grandmother and the jewelry she received from my grandfather’s travels around the globe as a merchant marine (he later became a cabinetmaker). I used figured maple that was cut during my first time milling a log during my first weeks as an apprentice. It also included joinery, a collection of tiny drawers lined with fabric, and other details I had never attempted before so, it was a personal project in every way.
Most of my work is in collaboration with Rob Spiece under the Lohr Woodworking moniker. You will definitely find my ‘best’ work among the pieces we create there. Our work is a collaboration every step of the way. We highlight the joinery and construction of each piece as well as let the natural, local materials we use (and often cut and dry ourselves) steal the show.
What advice would you give to someone that wants to start woodworking or pursue it as a profession?
• Muster every ounce of patience you’ve got. Working with wood is incredibly satisfying, rewarding, and worth the pursuit but, be prepared for a lot of time investment, many terrible designs, and mistakes along the way. Try not to let perfection get in the way of finishing something.
• Be excited to learn from all of those that came before you. No one is reinventing this wheel of traditions so, embrace the techniques and advice of all the craftspeople in history as well as those around us today. There are so many resources out there to explore and find guidance/inspiration from.
• Find a community. The woodworking world is filled with craftspeople who are excited to talk and share. Find a local woodworkers guild, talk with folks on social media, read blogs/magazines/books, find a communal shop that suits you, and take classes. Having a community will help you stay excited and motivated!
• Put your touch into what you make. Like all craft, if you enjoyed the process of making/designing it, it will show in the finished piece.
What’s your best hands-on tip or woodworking technique?
One of the best tips I got early on was to mill a bit of extra material for each piece of a project as you go. That way, you can test joinery, depth of cuts, texture, layout, and finish on the same material before committing to the real deal. I often end up saving those practice pieces as templates to reference if I make the same or a similar piece in the future.
Is there anyone you’d like to shout-out or recommend we follow? Who inspires you? (Doesn’t have to be woodworking related, either.)
@aworkshopofourown – A truly inspiring space for of women and non-binary woodworkers and aspiring woodworkers. They offer incredible classes, community, and workspace.
@nrhiller – Nancy is one of the most talented and iconic woodworkers out there. I encourage everyone to read everything she writes and admire everything she makes.
@meredithhartfurniture – She makes incredible custom furniture is somehow both contemporary and traditional all at once.
@lesley.gold – Lesley makes the most stunning quilts and doubles as a talented woodworker!
@colinpezzano – Seeing what Colin dreams up next to make from wood is one of the things I look forward to most on Instagram
@whartonesherickmuseum – The Wharton Esherick Museum is my all time favorite in-person place to visit. Their social media feed gives peeks into the museum, highlights Esherick’s work, presents competition/show opportunities, as well as conversations with current wood artists, and all sorts of fun things.