1. How did you get started in woodworking and construction?
John: Originally, I started building things when my oldest boys were young and we saw the price of furniture. I thought, “I could do that a whole lot cheaper and better!” 21 years later, I probably have spent more on tools than just buying furniture for rooms. But I found the joy in building things and knowing that I created them with my hands. It keeps me busy now – which is good, because it is hard for me to sit still.
2. Who are your biggest influences?
John: Probably Norm Abram – I got to meet him a couple of years ago and he was one of the nicest guys I have ever met. Very gracious with his time. I really like the function of his pieces. I am not into “form” just for “form sake.” If I build something- it has to work. Elements will have flair – but it has to work.
John uses the functionality of his pieces to fuel his creativity.
Pondering? Taking his work for a test drive? Either way, John shows the bunks have plenty of room for grown adults to sprawl out.
3. How would you describe your creative process?
John: Lots of pondering. For me, building is just a problem to solve – and when you start solving problems, more problems come up, so you have to solve them. So I think… a lot. Sometimes, I start building and I think about why I am doing what I am doing – that makes me rethink everything. I think it drives my wife nuts.
4. What inspires you?
John: Like I said, function. The piece has to work. If it doesn’t work, then why am I doing it?
5. What is/was your favorite part of creating bunks for the squad room? What about the most surprising?
John: There were a lot of problems to solve, especially building the majority of the project in my shop and bringing it to the hotel. After starting it there were some things about the room that needed to be addressed; some measurements in the room were off a little, which I expected, but it made for some fun problem solving. The scale of the piece was a little more than I thought it would be at the outset. That along with a pretty busy time in my life (my two older boys who inspired me to start building, graduated college this year, and my daughter graduated high school) made for some late nights and long weekends.
6. What about your art brings you the most joy?
John: The last nail/screw.
7. What do you enjoy the most about teaching? Do you have advice for someone just starting out?
John: There are a couple things. I love the “aha” moments. When a student’s eyes are opened, and they realize something they did not before. Teaching CTE (Career Technical Education) is very different from a normal classroom. I get the opportunity to talk to student about a lot of real life issues that regular classroom teachers might not be able to. Work ethic is a big part of my conversation with kids and it is woven throughout my classes. The other thing I really love to see is students realize that they can do it. When you break big projects down to smaller projects, things aren’t so intimidating. Building is a skill that can be developed, just like an athlete develops his skill in a particular sport. For some, it takes longer than others- but anybody can build. I also really like the outside conversations I have with students, when they allow me to speak into their life. I came into teaching a little through the back door. My first career was a youth minister – and I think of my time with students in school as part of my ministry.
Steps installed and getting closer to the finished product.
With the vertical beams and a matress in place you can really see the scale of the project.
8. Do you have any dream projects? (If time, money, access, space, etc. were all available to you.)
John: I have a goal to build every piece of furniture in my house. We bought a 1979 split level on some acreage 5 years ago and started to remodel it. I redid the cabinets around the fireplace and built a custom live edge mantle. I gutted and rebuilt the kitchen. I took out a sliding door, and re-framed much larger windows. I built custom cabinets (a little taller than normal cabinets, all 7 in my house are over 6 foot) re-plumbed and re-wired everything. The only thing I didn’t do myself was install the Granite. New floors went in this year. A dining room table and chairs are next (the chairs kind of intimidate me- but I will get them done) I’m not sure if I want to tackle the sofas, but I have fixed our sofa a couple of times- so that counts right? There is more to do, but we are getting there.
9. What would you say is your favorite tool? And if different, what about the tool you couldn’t live without?
John: Like most people who love tools – my favorite tool is the tool I need next. I probably couldn’t live without a tablesaw – I use it a ton and it is so versatile. But I love all kinds of tools. I’m not a big “gimmicky tool” guy, but I have been able to order a few for the school that I am really looking forward to using.
10. When did you know you wanted to work with wood and in construction? Do you remember the first time you were moved by a piece of woodwork?
John: I think it was just a natural progression. As a builder, I started with small projects, and every project just got bigger. I love the look of built-ins. Our first house had a good number of built-ins and I thought it gave the house character – and I love to mimic that in new projects.
The bunks have quickly become a popular spot for group pics you can find on IG and Facebook!
11. What’s your favorite thing about a bunk bed?
John: Functionality. I have four boys – two sets of twins. Old houses have small rooms, and we had old houses. They had unusually tall ceilings for old houses. The only way we were going to get both boys in the same room was a bunk bed. My daughter actually had a loft bed as well. Her bed had a desk underneath, but the idea was similar.
12. True or False: Bunk Beds are for kids only.
John: Totally False!
13. If you were to describe your bunks in three words, what would they be?
John: Massive, Classy, and Fun.
14. Would you say your environment affects your work?
John: Absolutely. Woodwork is always affected by the environment. The PNW is actually the perfect place to build because the humidity in our area is a perfect 45 percent most of the year. We don’t have to worry about large swings in humidity that cause furniture and woodwork to expand and contract a lot.
15. What is the coolest and/or strangest request you’ve ever been asked (could be a while working on a commissioned piece, or an experience at the school, etc)?
John: People are always asking me to build things for them. Recently, a local winery asked me to build “succulent planters” from dissasembled wine barrels. The winery dropped off 2 extra barrels a week later because they had so many people sign up- but I got it done on time. The winery hosted a Mother’s Day brunch – the planters were an activity during the brunch and were apparently a big hit.