A Woodworker's Journey : Iler Woods Beginnings
Some things stick with you for life, this can be good and alternatively bad or perhaps in between. I grew up around wood and construction tools. Materials of all shapes, sizes, and eras were hanged on garage walls or on a workbench. My grandpa had 3 workshops, one for gadgets, another for metal work and yet another for woodworking. My dad was in construction, he was a general contractor. I think it could be argued that wood is in my veins… it probably literally is because of the number of splinters I've gotten over the years. The main differences with the different shops that I “cut my teeth” in were that Grandpa’s shop was for fun, dad’s shop was for work.
In my life these two aspects have melded into one. My shop continues to collect wood and the space my wood takes up continues to expand. I have wood to work, wood to cut, wood to split, wood to burn, wood to sand. I had a revelation a few years back and it took 47 years of living to help me make the connection As I explained to Erin, wood as it is, is a complete source of comfort for me. Seeing wood, burning wood, having wood, working with wood, knowing I have projects to do and many lined up; all of these are important in my life and calming. The most important for me is knowing I have stacks and stacks of wood to keep my family warm. When I took my vows and eventually had children, I promised myself I would NEVER run out of wood.
Full confession here, there was a period in my life where I forgot about woodworking. It didn’t appeal to me and I was not interested in it. Erin tried to give me magazines and ideas for projects. I would thank her and tuck them away for the future. For seven years I barely touched a screwdriver to hang pictures in the house. My wood shop had become rat infested, my tools were rust laden and as my instruments of art deteriorated. . . so did my sense of self. Without crafting out of wood, I was adrift in the turmoils of life. I had lost what grounds me and my only outlet was to work when I wasn’t at work. I did have a wood pile that I didn’t use to burn or work.. it sat untouched but I always had it, it was my vow.
My dad had a woodshed made of aluminum sheets held together with a simple 2x4x8 frame. Sometimes the wood pile would reach the very top of the shed and I would be ecstatic that we had so much to burn. These days were brighter, there was a spring in my dad’s step and lots of laughter filled our home. Other times we would have little wood and these are the times I would dread. If the shed was empty for days, weeks, months on end I would be very scared, unsure of what would come next. These times, a greying pall would hang in the house and parent conversations were held quietly, and in the kitchen at night when my brother and I were out of earshot.
When my dad was working, he would bring home miscut pieces and scrap to burn. As an adult I
was able to understand my feelings associated with wood. Lots of wood meant that dad was making money, no wood meant no work and what would we eat, would the bills get paid, what’s next?
Here I am, years later, surrounded by my wife and daughters. My tools are worn well and my shop is trodden almost daily. My stacks of wood decrease and just as quickly increase. I am home.
I am certain that my passion has at its roots my experiences as a child with wood. With each piece of art that I create it is 70% invigorating, life giving and replenishes my soul. I love the smell, feel and action of wood. Making it into something I “saw somewhere” or something someone asked me to make is what drives me onward. The other 30% is a cathartic homage to my childhood and the men who influenced what I do. My grandpa taught me that wood is one of many artistic mediums. My dad taught me that wood is important for more than just making art.
Woodworking has stuck with me. Wood is my past, present, and future, it just is, it is who I am.
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