Woodworking in America: Larissa Huff

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Harris desk

We are interviewing producers from all 50 states. Today we introduce Larissa Huff, a Pennsylvania woodworking designer and instructor.

How did you start working with wood? Who were your mentors?
Like so many traditional artisans before me, I started working with wood by answering a Craigslist ad. After college, I moved to a new city and was looking for a job as a teacher. I hadn’t transferred my teaching certificate from FL to PA yet, so I was looking for non-traditional instructor jobs to hold back. Jeffry Lohr was looking for a woodworking apprentice with teaching skills and some understanding of the internet. The job looked so interesting, I applied, got hired and committed to a two year apprenticeship. After the first day in the shop, I knew it was over. I didn’t know anything about woodworking before that day, but I haven’t wanted to do anything else since. Jeff was / is my mentor and he taught me all about furniture making, sawmill and running a small business. With social media, organizations and schools / classes, I consider myself lucky to exist in an age where I am constantly learning from other carpenters as well.

Marjorie wardrobe

What do you think is your best or favorite job? What kind of work do you do the most?
I mainly make furniture, but I also like to dabble in smaller pieces with sculptural elements. My favorite work is probably a small jewelry cabinet I made in 2018. It’s not my most technically impressive piece, but the sentimental value gives it a special place. I designed it in honor of my late grandmother and the jewelry she received from my grandfather’s travels around the world as a merchant navy (he later became a cabinetmaker). I used figured maple that was cut during my first log milling during my first few weeks as an apprentice. It also included woodwork, a collection of tiny fabric-covered drawers, and other details that I had never tried before, so it was a personal project in every way.

Most of my work is in collaboration with Rob Spiece under the name of Lohr Woodworking. You will surely find my “best” work among the pieces we create there. Our work is a collaboration at every stage of the journey. We highlight the joinery and construction of each piece, as well as letting the natural and local materials we use (and often cut and dry ourselves) steal the show.

Chest of drawers No.112

What advice would you give to those who want to start woodworking or take it up as a profession?
• Collect all the patience you have. Working with wood is incredibly satisfying, rewarding, and worth pursuing, but be prepared for an investment of time, many terrible projects, and mistakes along the way. Try not to let perfection stand in the way of completing something.
• Be excited to learn from all who have come before you. No one is reinventing this wheel of traditions, so embrace the techniques and advice of all the artisans in history as well as those around us today. There are so many resources out there to explore and to find guidance / inspiration from.
• Find a community. The world of woodworking is full of artisans eager to talk and share. Find a local carpenters guild, talk to people on social media, read blogs / magazines / books, find a joint shop that suits you and take lessons. Having a community will help you stay excited and motivated!
• Put your touch in what you do. Like all crafts, if you enjoyed the creation / design process, it will show in the finished piece.

Spiral lock box

What’s your best practical advice or woodworking technique?
One of the best tips I got in the beginning was to mill some extra material for each piece of a project as you go. This way, you can test the woodwork, depth of cuts, texture, layout and finish on the same material before committing to a real deal. I often end up saving those practice pieces as templates to refer to if I create the same piece or a similar piece in the future.

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.)
@aworkshopofourown – A truly inspiring space for non-binary women and carpenters and aspiring carpenters. They offer incredible classes, communities and workspaces.
@nrhiller – Nancy is one of the most talented and iconic carpenters around. I encourage everyone to read everything he writes and admire everything he does.
@meredithhartfurniture – Make amazing bespoke furniture somehow contemporary and traditional at the same time.
@ lesley.gold – Lesley makes the most beautiful quilts and doubles as a talented carpenter!
@colinpezzano – Seeing what Colin dreams of doing with wood is one of the things I look forward to most on Instagram
@whartonesherickmuseum – The Wharton Esherick Museum is my absolute favorite place to visit in person. Their social media feed offers museum peeks, highlights Esherick’s work, features competition / performance opportunities, as well as conversations with current wood artists and all sorts of fun stuff.

See more of Larissa’s work on Lohr Woodworking Studio’s website or on Instagram @ larissa.huff.

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