Woodworking In America: Elizabeth Spotswood

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We are interviewing producers from all 50 states. Today we feature Elizabeth Spotswood, a North Carolina artist.

How did you start working with wood? Who were your mentors?
While I was in art school, studying drawing and painting, I took a course in carpentry. Immediately, I was drawn to building and using my hands in a different way. The wood inherently became a canvas while the woodwork provided a necessary context to create within.

Then I dropped out of art school and met my first mentor, Brent Skidmore, who taught carpentry at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina. Then I moved to Murray State University in Murray KY, because they offered a woodworking program equivalent to functional sculpture. There I met Paul Sasso, who I still feel in my head when I begin to have doubts. Eventually, I received my MFA from the University of Dartmouth in New Bedford, MA with Steve Whittlesey. It was just as wonderful.

What do you think is your best or favorite job? What kind of work do you do the most?
I think of my work as children, I love them all, but some are easier than others.nI make many carved and figurative pieces with small drawers and odd functions.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start woodworking or take it up as a profession?
Surround yourself with a community of carpenters. Carpenters are fun, interesting and smart. They will share your interests and help you.

Protect your eyes, your lungs and your fingers…. I mean!

Spend some money on a tool you like and use the most. Make sure you can fix it. I would also like to investigate someone whose work you admire and see if you can take a course with them.

What’s your best practical advice or woodworking technique?
Okay folks, I love to sculpt. I have a ¾ “piece of MDF with jeweler rouge smeared on it. It works just like using a leather strop to maintain sharpness, but I like to use MDF better … I don’t hate it.

Is there anyone you would like to shout out or would you recommend following? Who inspires you? (It doesn’t even have to be related to woodworking.)
Katie Hudnall is killing him right now. It is a fun and incredibly talented carpentry shop. Sylvie Rosenthal is also a prodigious carpentry.

I am inspired by many different artisan artists such as ceramist Christina Cordova and fiber artist Anna Torma.

I also love places like Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. They are dedicated environments that cultivate talent in multiple forms and skill levels.

See more of Elizabeth’s work on her website or on Instagram @elizabeth_spotswood.

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