Woodworking In America: Sophie Glenn

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“Rump Shakers”

We are interviewing producers from all 50 states. Today we feature Sophie Glenn, a Mississippi furniture maker and metalworker.

How did you start working with wood? Who were your mentors?
I became very interested in making furniture about 10 years ago while I was a student at SUNY Purchase College. Although Dennis Fitzgerald (my carpentry professor) was very encouraging, at first I didn’t have a very strong understanding or connection with woodworking. It was only when I met and took a course from Vivian Beer, a steel furniture manufacturer who was a Windgate Artist in Residence at the time, that I felt I had found a material and practice that I was truly passionate about. Even though I’m primarily into metalworking these days, my practice is still very much informed by woodworking and the history of furniture making, which I couldn’t have learned without the guidance of some amazing manufacturers, such as Wendy Maruyama, Matt Hebert and Graham Campbell, to name a few.

“Black sheep”

What do you think is your best or favorite job? What kind of work do you do the most?
In recent times, most of my work has been done mostly in painted and rusty steel, but at first glance you would not know. My “Rust Never Sleeps” series has been an ongoing project for the past 4 years and although it somehow started out as a joke, it has truly become a series of works that reflect my experiences and ideas as a furniture maker and metalworker. (although the humor still manages to creep in at times). Some of the pieces are quite difficult to perform, like “Black Sheep” and its steel wool seat, but they end up being some of my favorites for that reason. In short, I love trying out new techniques that can make my steel works look much more believable like wooden originals.

What advice would you give to those who want to start woodworking or take it up as a profession?
BE PATIENT. This is the key in more ways than one. First, it is impossible to learn everything there is to know about woodworking in a classroom, article, etc., so being patient with your education (in whatever form it takes) is important and ultimately valuable. Secondly, the right opportunity may not always be available just when you want it, so I think it’s important to understand that, as something isn’t happening right now, it doesn’t mean it will never happen. Be patient and keep trying.

Even with that, I think it’s always a good idea for an aspiring carpenter / furniture maker to find the community to help them do better and support their efforts. Finding the right people can make a difference.

“Gorgeous George”

What’s your best practical advice or woodworking technique?
I love making masonite models, because I can use them for both my woodworking and metalworking projects, and for me they last better over time than paper models. I probably use them more often with a plasma cutter if I need to cut out a complex shape, but in general, making a model is that little prep work that makes things a lot smoother.

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.)
There were already some big names listed in previous interviews, but here are a few more:
– Vivian Beer – my mentor who makes amazing furniture out of steel, aluminum and even concrete
– Eleanor Rose Meineke – creator of beautiful instruments and furniture
– A Workshop of Our Own – a large organization with a great cause in Baltimore, MD. A carpentry for women who identify and creators of non-conforming gender.
– Rachel David – furniture maker and locksmith
– Nathaniel Hall – very talented carpenter and great friend.

See more of Sophie’s work on her website or on Instagram @arcburn_furniture.

Photo credit: Megan Bean and Mississippi State University

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