Woodworking in America: Jenny Boles
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We are interviewing producers from all 50 states. Today we introduce Jenny Boles, a Kentucky joinery.
How did you start the woodworking? Who were your mentors?
I have always had a love of building and creating things, even as a child. As a child I wandered in the woods near our house and constantly built myself a club house. After a couple of weeks, I demolished it and built a new one. Looking back, I realized that my passion was not actually having a club house, but what I loved was building and designing them. When I grew up to become a young adult, I started the home improvement and do-it-yourself path like many of us. As my collection of tools and knowledge began to grow, I started experimenting with the construction of small furniture and furniture. It didn’t take long before I started spending almost every spare moment building pieces. In my early years I didn’t really have any mentors, I didn’t even know other people who liked working with wood. In the mid 1920s I started working with a man in my day job who was also a carpenter. We exchanged ideas with each other and he encouraged my adventurous spirit and patiently answered all the questions he could. He introduced me to the spiral saw and encouraged me to continue practicing and advancing my techniques and projects.
What do you think is your best or favorite job? What kind of work do you do most?
I really like making small and very detailed pieces. I make a lot of fancy souvenir boxes and use the scroll saw to add complex design features. Much of my work is about the scroll saw. I use it to make three-dimensional wall art, decorative elements on boxes, playful decorative figurines and inlay work on small tables and decorative trays.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start carpentry or pursue it as a profession?
I’d like to tell someone who has just started, that at some point you just have to turn off YouTube videos and jump in there and start building something. You will make mistakes, but you will learn from those mistakes and continue to rely on that knowledge. Without a doubt, the best lessons I have learned and the greatest growth I have achieved in the wood workshop come from the many mistakes I have made. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, try new things and understand what works and what doesn’t. When asked how I learned to work with wood, I always say that I have invested many hours to understand how to correct all my mistakes. To truly succeed in your profession, you need time, investment and perseverance. My advice would be to invest time, be willing to learn from your mistakes and continue to challenge yourself. To be truly successful as a carpenter, you have to make carpentry a priority in your life. You have to repeatedly cut the time of your day and make sacrifices to make sure you invest enough in the job.
What is your practical advice or the best woodworking technique?
It took me a long time to embrace the practice of making very detailed models, patterns and designs. Since I started investing in the preparation time of any project or piece, the whole process seems to flow much more smoothly and the quality of my work has increased. I love using different thicknesses of matte cardboard to mock a smaller version of a piece that I will build, especially with large tables or boxes. This helps me visualize the final proportions, as well as imagine potential construction problems or weaknesses that I may have to face before I start building the real piece. I also spend a lot of time creating patterns for more detailed portions of a drawing. For example, I could cut out a design for the legs or pull the lid on a souvenir box. I keep all these models and now I have a collection enough to choose from or modify when designing new pieces.
Is there anyone you would like to scream or recommend to follow? Who inspires you? (It doesn’t even have to be tied to carpentry.)
Wow, there are so many talented and inspiring carpenters out there. I’d like to encourage people to take a look at the carpentry community on Instagram. One of the first people I started following was Guy Dunlap @guyswoodshop, he is a fantastic carpenter and I learned so much from him and his videos. He gives excellent advice and advice and has produced some wonderful pieces. I’m also a big fan of Timothy Coleman @timcolemanfurniture. His work is so masterfully elegant, his carpentry is impeccable and he is a person that I truly admire and consider a carpenter. Most recently I have followed Jihae @jihaewoodworks. His work is so extraordinary. His pieces look so modern and fresh with nice clean lines. There are so many others that I admire and that inspire me. But here are 3 of my favorites, I hope you check them out on Instagram.
See more of Jenny’s work on Etsy or Instagram @willowswoodworks
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