We’re interviewing makers from all 50 states. Today we’re featuring Terry Streetman, a sustainability-focused woodworker from Nebraska.
How did you get started woodworking? Who were your mentors?
I got started with woodworking relatively recently, back in early 2019 when my wife Emily and I bought our first house. I had always been interested in the craft, but hadn’t had the space to set up a shop until then. My grandfather was a skilled woodworker, putting his skills to use to build all manner and size of projects ranging from simple napkin holders, to rocking horses, to entire houses. His workshop was always full of works in progress and a variety of woodworking magazines and plans. It was his example that inspired me to try my hand at it. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2005 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, so I never really had the chance to learn directly from him. In the years prior to getting started, I had followed more and more woodworkers on Instagram, and learned a fair amount just from seeing their content. Once I had space in the garage to set up my small shop, I filled it with second-hand tools from estate sales and jumped right in.
I would probably count my dad and my grandfather as my woodworking mentors, just because of the lessons they both taught me when I was young, and the example they set of how to do things the right way.
What do you think is your best or favorite work? What kind of work do you do the most?
One of my favorite things I’ve ever built was the chicken coop we had in our backyard. It was one of the first things I built after we bought our house, and it challenged me to learn a lot of new techniques. I designed, framed, finished, and roofed the whole thing myself, and am still very proud of how it turned out. My dad also helped me frame out the walls, so it was a great chance to bond with him and learn more about woodworking and carpentry.
The majority of my work at this point is smaller home décor items. These range from charcuterie boards and ornaments to plant propagation stations and wall art. During the pandemic, my wife got very interested in houseplants, so making plant propagation stations (which can hold several test tubes for propagating houseplant cuttings) became a fun way to enjoy my hobby while also supporting hers. They also allow for a lot of variety in terms of materials and design. I would say those have been my most popular items so far.
What advice would you give to someone that wants to start woodworking or pursue it as a profession?
My advice would be to just go for it. Many people – especially those like me who build an interest through social media – have this fear that unless they have all the skills and the most expensive tools, they won’t be able to produce quality work. But woodworking, like any other skill, takes time and effort and passion, and I think those things matter more than having the best tools or perfect technique. Nobody starts out a master, but you’ll never build the skills and knowledge you need if you never get started in the first place.
What’s your best hands-on tip or woodworking technique?
Truthfully, I’m still finding my way as I develop my craft, so I don’t tend to have a lot of great tips and tricks. For those, I tend to turn to the woodworking community on Instagram. I’ve learned a lot from folks like Anne Briggs (@anneofalltrades), April Wilkerson (@wilker_dos), Ashley Harwood (@ashleyharwoodturning), and Matt Cremona (@mattcremona). There are so many great woodworkers out there who have developed great resources and advice for folks all across the spectrum of ability.
Is there anyone you’d like to shout-out or recommend we follow? Who inspires you? (Doesn’t have to be woodworking related, either.)
I would love to shout out a couple of my friends who have also gotten into woodworking, and who I can always count on for encouragement, to talk shop, or just commiserate over a project that hasn’t gone quite right. Tim of Totten’s Timber Woodcraft (@ttotten86 on Instagram) and Freddie of Built By Pops Woodshop (@builtbypops on Instagram).
This interview was lightly edited for clarity.
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