In the 90s, the government was busily downsizing, my Department of the Interior program was eliminated; My position became reinvented out of existence. 

Things were terrible for the first two years following that. I was in my mid-forties, and professional positions for an anthropologist were scarce.

I created my woodcarving business more from a need to preserve my mental well-being than a genuine impulse to be an entrepreneur. With cash scarce, I resorted to hunting out free or modestly priced wood to carve. Local lumberyards grew accustomed to my visits.

One day I happened upon an operation that milled hardwoods for flooring. Their business was thriving, the quality of their wood excellent. At first, I gratefully scavenged for free wood from their dumpster. I made many carved boxes, small chests, spoons, spatulas, and other items from their waste stream. Then, as I began to take orders, I purchased wood from their “shorts” for my projects. A short is a remainder of a plank after what is needed is cut off. It’s too short for most work but too good to be tossed. Eventually, I was a regular client coming down and purchasing planks for larger projects.

Most of the wood they milled was used for flooring and architectural trim. But because the owners were boaters, I often saw them at boat shows. They always were excited to see how their cherry, oak, and mahogany had been transformed into carved eagles, quarterboards, and chests. It was different than seeing just another flooring project.

The photos show a progression of projects from their wood, from small objects made from scrap to things made from more significant purchases. Visiting their yard was not just for business. It was an esthetic pleasure, and they always asked what I would make with the wood.

About ten years ago, they sold their business to spend some time sailing around the world. I’ll always be grateful to them for their interest and generosity.

Here is a sampler:

3 Replies to “Shorts”

  1. Very enterprising. What was the program that was cut? When my husband was alive and we were traveling to or from a show, he would often see a downed tree stump or limb in a draw beside the the road and stop the motorhome and climb over a barbed wire fence to drag the wood up and put it on top of the motorhome. He saw everything as potential art!

  2. It was a folklife program that worked with traditional crafts people. We also ran a small museum, did programs for school children, and helped run one of the larger traditional folk festivals in the North East.
    I also see art in everything, but as the wood storage locations in both the shed and the basement have filled “she who must be obeyed” has put me on am acquisitions diet.

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