Jisel has been a carpenter for 30 years. In that time, she’s gone above and beyond the typical training that’s required. She pushes herself, finding peak satisfaction in a finished product, constructed solely by her hands.
“I joined Carpenters Local 409 back in 1988 to start my apprenticeship. During the 4 years of my apprenticeship I took additional drafting classes at the local community college and did a couple of courses through the cabinet makers union.” -Jisel
“It’s a skilled trade that keeps you learning as the industry changes and that by working hard and mastering the skills. It’s a trade that can be done anywhere in the world.” -Jisel
“Being a woman in a male dominated field can be tough at times. There are challenges that you have to overcome. You have to be head strong and really want to be better than most because they will always assume that you can’t do it as well as a man. My advice would be to stick with it, ignore the negative behaviors and stand up for yourself when needed. Command respect by being good at what you do and not for what you are. A good craftsman will respect another regardless of your gender.”-Jisel
“I designed my hammer girl logo a long time ago as a way to tag my tools. Instead of engraving my name on the tools it was easier and cuter! I’ve always liked the stick figures so I made one of myself with my signature pig tails and of course my hammer. Many years later I had a friend make decals for me.” -Jisel (logo seen below)
“The best part of what I do is seeing the smiles on the faces of my clients when the project is complete and they are happy. Knowing that what I did made their lives better. It’s really gratifying.” -Jisel
Before joining her family in the wood business, Jenny Barger was in Marketing and Advertising. It turned out to be the perfect background as she now runs the Sales and Marketing for Live Edge Detroit.
Back in 1984, Jenny’s dad started a tree care and removal business. His heart has always been set on sustainability and conservation, and it often pained him to merely chop unwanted trees into firewood.
So in 2016, Jenny, her brother Joe, and her dad Mike founded Live Edge. They now salvage the trees that Mike’s company removes. Once the wood has been cut and taken back to their warehouse, the crew mills them into new usable material.
Slabs of gorgeous dry wood fill the space. Customers are welcome to wander around and search for the perfect materials for their next project or peruse the finished pieces they have to offer.
“Our vision for Live Edge Detroit was to develop a branch of Mike’s Tree Surgeons, Inc. that focused on salvaging our local resources and making them available for the community to enjoy for many more years to come. Our long term goals are to uphold that initial vision and to see it bloom into a more sustainable and profitable branch of the family business. We aren’t planning to take over the world, but we want to make a difference within the community, and we feel that starts right here in our own backyard.” -Jenny Barger from @liveedgedetroit
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I’ve been so fortunate to have friends and past colleagues that have pitched in to help me here and there where I may not have expertise. Let people help you, and if you love what you do, and you’re honest and hardworking, I believe success will find you.” -Jenny Barger from @liveedgedetroit
“Everything I know about wood and trees I learned from my dad! He studied Forestry at Michigan Tech University and has been a longtime Certified Arborist and Urban Forester. He is the go-to for anyone in the Metro-Detroit area that needs arboriculture consultation. Not only is he a vast wealth of knowledge, he has been incredibly patient in teaching his corporate-minded daughter how to identify wood species by grain and bark, and understand what species are good for what types of projects, etc. I am not an expert yet – but I have great resources to fall back on when questions arise!” -Jenny Barger from @liveedgedetroit
“My previous jobs were very instrumental to my professional development, but they were not personally fulfilling in the way that working for the family business has been. Not only has it opened up my eyes to how much the community values and respects my dad and his business, but I also have the opportunity to learn from him every day, and to carry out his dream of full cycle sustainability. It has been the biggest blessing! My advice for anyone in a family business is something that I’ve recently had to realize firsthand, and that is to draw a few boundaries between business time and family time. It can be tough to ‘turn off’ when all of the family members are so passionate about what they do, but sometimes you just have to decompress and be a family. As much as we spend time together talking business, sometimes you just need your dad to be your dad to be your dad!” -Jenny Barger from @liveedgedetroit
Meet woodworker Alexandra Climent. She operates out of her own shop in Brooklyn. Her passion for the extraordinary wood she found in the jungle lead her to teach herself the trade.
This is her story in her own words:
“In college I worked for a marine construction company as their account manager and secretary…I noticed that there was a certain type of wood that was in high demand for marine work…I started to research where this special wood came from. It turned out there was a reason why it wasn’t widely available; it was difficult to get because it came from a small country in South America, which I later found was very hard to communicate with.
I ended up going down to the jungle with the construction company fully supporting the idea of me finding the wood they needed and purchasing it directly from me. It was an intense struggle to find suppliers and there were many dangerous things that happened while in the jungle.
I started falling in love with the idea of bringing back the wood for myself and discovering it’s beauty in some way. I wanted to to do it sustainably, as I wanted the wood both to be visually beautiful, but also beautiful in the way that it had lived it’s full life. Locals loved the idea and got excited by helping figure out ways to do this.
Once I managed to get an order together for a full container back to the states, I realized I had something really special. I had no idea at the time how to woodwork and because of the density of the wood, I didn’t even know how to make cuts without breaking blades.
When the wood finally arrived, it would be months that turned into almost 2 years of me researching and driving around trying to find help to cut the wood I had worked so hard to find. I still had a full time job and would take my days off and drive all over to woodshops and mills asking if they could help me cut this wood. All of them said no.
I ended up having to do it myself and so far each aspect of this learning process of woodworking I have learned and taught to myself. I think a lot of people thought I would never be able to do it, but I never gave up. Now, after many years in the making, I’m able to finally make pieces that are very close to my heart that also showcase the beauty that I saw when I was down in jungle.” –Alexandra Climent
All of the products Alexandra Climent makes are set apart from other pieces constructed of wood. She sustainably sources her materials from the jungle, befriending locals and working with each regions’ governments along the way. The wood she harvests and brings back to her wood shop in Brooklyn is ancient, densely packed over years and years. Note the grain and hue in her finished pieces shown above. To see more of her work, visit her website: www.sustainablysliced.com/shop.
“My advice would be not to wait around to find the perfect class or the perfect moment to start woodworking. You just have to jump into it, even if it’s little by little. I was working for a retail company and would find time to practice on my days off, no one considered me a woodworker then, but I was because I was practicing and progressing…even if it was slowly. It doesn’t matter what you do, just find a little bit of time to start.” -Woodworker @alexandracliment
When people told Alexandra Climent that what she wanted to do was impossible, she just kept plugging away. Her determination and problem solving set her work apart. The ancient woods she brings back from the jungle are unlike anything most of us have ever seen. It’s so dense, saw blades can only make it through a few cuts before breaking against the age-old grain. The deep pigments, saturated into the rings over time, tell a rich story.
As she travels to the jungles of South America, her deepest hope is to share this rare beauty that nature bestowed in those particular regions. Her efforts to preserve and promote all that those forests have to offer are encouraging. As humans, we can appreciate and use what the earth gives us without harming our surroundings in the long run.
Meet Amber Williams, Timber Production Manager aka “Lead Lawg Dawg” at On Site Management in Bozeman, Montana.
“In 1997, I got a job after school working in a local cabinet shop. They made doors, cabinets and furniture that ended up in OSM homes a majority of the time. It was there that I learned traditional woodworking skills from journeyman cabinetmakers. Three years later I was unhappy with the limitations of cabinetry, I wanted something more. I had a solid base of knowledge giving me the confidence to transition from fine woodworking to heavy construction. I started my own business building furniture and cabinets as well as working for OSM as a subcontractor. After doing this for a year I applied to work for OSM full time as an employee. The atmosphere and ability to build the best homes in the area is something I am still proud of.” -Builder Amber Williams
“Being a builder is the only way I can make a living and be an artist at the same time. We build amazing works of functional art in remote locations that people can live in. This is the best of both worlds, the building experience of working in areas that most people will never see is unlike any other, and knowing that your work will withstand the test of time and be appreciated by generations. When building log assemblies, you don’t have the ability to work with traditional elements of level and square. It’s up to each team member to see the twisted log and find a way to make it plumb or level and fit within the job. Our end goal is to make each piece appear as though it grew together. Working with your hands allows each person at the end of each day to stand back and say, ‘I built that!'” -Builder Amber Williams
Amber’s advice for anyone looking to get into the building industry:
“Be true to yourself, listen to your gut, and always do your best. You will never please those around you so don’t waste your energy. Remember to be kind to yourself, the world is hard enough as it is, don’t add to the insecurities/negativity already thrust upon you. Allow your work to speak for you.”
“I’ve been officially working with wood since 2013 when my partner, Kyle, and I launched our company Woodward Throwbacks.
My dad is a general contractor back in New York and when I was younger I used to go on some of the sites with him. I believe that is when I truly became fascinated with the idea of being able to design and build.
I started re-purposing found wood back in college but it became a serious hobby once I met Kyle. We used to bike around the city exploring different neighborhoods and during our excursions we noticed an abundance of wood from illegal dumping sites. We combined our love for the city and the idea that taking materials found in the street would also help clean our neighborhoods.
We are inspired by memes and daily life. When it comes to brain storming, it usually involves a few beers and tons of laughter. Coming up with new designs is our way of team building. We don’t take our design process too seriously and I think that is what makes our product so memorable and relatable.
My favorite product is our bottle openers, because it was our very first product. Now we are expanding and have the capabilities to customize branding designs for our retailers and corporate clients.”
My father had a huge part in getting me into carpentry. Since I was little, I always loved helping him with fixing things around the house. Now that I’m an adult, I want to know more and do it all.
My advise for other women would be work hard, have thick skin, always be willing to learn, and know that you don’t have to be the strongest person out here to get the job done. It’s not about brute strength but knowledge strength and thinking outside the box.
Women can do this work and we can do it well. This line of work isn’t for everyone, but for the people that want to get into it it’s great.
My favorite part of my job is that I’m building America one building at a time. To see a building start out as dirt and end up being a beautiful building at the end, and knowing I had a part in that gives me a feeling of completion. To be able to drive by a building with my family and friends and say I had a hand in building that gives me a great sense of pride.” —Traci Longenbarger
As an artist and a crafter, I love having my most used tools and accessories within arm’s reach. That’s why I love these pegboard organizers I created in just 8 easy steps. Follow along to make one for yourself.
1/2 in. x 2 ft. x 2 ft. Wooden Project Panel
3/4 in. x 48 in. Wooden Dowel
3/4 in. Spade Bit
1/2 in. x 4 in. x 4ft. Wooden Plank
Step 1: With a pencil and T-Square, create a grid with vertical and horizontal lines across your project panel every four inches.
Step 2: Using the 3/4 in. Spade Bit, drill a hole into the project panel at each intersection of lines on the grid.
Step 3: Carefully sand the wood around each hole so it’s smooth and erase your pencil markings.
Step 4: With the miter saw, cut several 5 inch and 3 inch segments from the wooden dowels. They will serve as pegs and shelf holders.
Step 5: Cut the plank in half with the miter saw. These pieces of plank will serve as shelves.
Step 6: Attach the hanging fixtures onto the top back corners of the wooden panel.
Step 7: Insert the pegs into the project panel and place the shelves on top of the shelf holders.
In an effort to assuage the issues of high unemployment and enormous amounts of demolition waste in the area of Syracuse, New York; Janie Mills and the folks at Near Westside Initiative and Northside Urban Partnership united forces to create Salt Works. This amazing social enterprise pulls in members of the community and teaches them the tricks of the woodworking trade. Recycling materials that would typically be on course to becoming landfill, the carpenters at Salt Works create artisan furniture.
This mindful company lifts up members of the community and betters the planet through green production. The items they offer are impeccably designed and assembled. There is such a difference in furniture that is mass produced and furniture that is crafted with the utmost attention to detail. These are pieces that will endure a lifetime in your living space, filling up your home with good vibes and good design.
ADX in Portland is a makers’ dream. It’s a 12,000 square foot facility filled with tools, space to work, and other like-minded folks. There’s a wood shop, metal shop, factory floor, and design lab; all equipped for pretty much anything you can dream up. All you have to do is get a membership, much like you would at the gym. That membership gives you access to the space, help from the staff, and the chance to sign up for on site classes. And when you need to a break or a caffeine fix, head on over the the cafe for a pick me up.
Meet Yelena Prusakova. She’s an artist and member at ADX. Take a look as she puts together a frame for a poster in the wood shop. With her background in Industrial and Interaction Design and access to whatever she needs at ADX, Yelena can bring her inspirations and visions to life.
Joan is one skilled woman. She has a background in carpentry and currently teaches environmental literacy at Windy City Harvest in Chicago. WCH is a program sponsored by Chicago Botanical Garden to train adults in sustainable horticulture and urban agriculture. From building hoop houses to compost pens, Joan’s carpentry background plays well into her new position at the farm. It’s always cool to look back and see how your past paves the way for your future. Each skill you gain can only help you be a more dimensional person. Always keep learning and working.