Woodworking in America: Katie Williams

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We are interviewing producers from all 50 states. Today we introduce Katie Williams, a South Carolina woodworker.

How did you start working with wood? Who were your mentors?
I was initially interested in doing historical preservation, but felt I needed to invest in learning how to do the work, not just reading and writing about it. I was having a hard time finding a way to get into the craft because I didn’t have real experience, so I found a school that taught traditional building methods. Through school and internships I have found many good places to work. I learned most of what I do in woodworking through Nic Williams of Meadors Inc. My other teachers / mentors in the industry were Jordan Finch, Bruno Sutter and David Dick.

What do you think is your best or favorite job? What kind of work do you do the most?
I made a variety of things, mainly doors and windows. Woodworking is a lot of fun, even though I’m doing less traditional woodworking jobs in manufacturing work. I love the union of functionality and beauty in a piece that will last a lifetime. I think a lot of people overlook aesthetics in something as mundane as a door. But I love the necessary function of a door and the silent details that generate beauty.

What advice would you give to those who want to start woodworking or take it up as a profession?
My learning style is complicated, so a woodworking program was the best route for me. Also, I had no contact in the industry and felt knocked out as an inexperienced woman.

There are a lot of great programs out there. But they aren’t very accessible or convenient, unfortunately. Apprenticeship is great if you can find someone willing to hire you. There is tons of content online, from live lectures to YouTube content. I wish there were more easily accessible roads in this work. We need more enthusiastic people, more diversity in the industry and a touch of change for the whole culture. I have worked with many people who grew up in the trade with a lot of hostility and with what sounds like hazing and I hope that changes.

What’s your best practical advice or woodworking technique?
I’m not sure I have any suggestions that haven’t been heard before. My biggest advice would be to develop a good methodology. Draw before building. Maintain consistent layout methods. Sharpen the chisels and check if they are square.

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.)
So many but here are a few.

See more of Katie’s work on Instagram @hammerandbell.

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