The first time Meredith Nicole learned how to sharpen a plane iron to perfection and took a pass with it, she fell in love.
That was in 2008. She had already completed a BA in Art and Design from Emily Carr University; lived, worked and created art for five years in Taiwan; and revamped and restored antique furniture for two years in Hastings, England. But the moment of love took place at the Inside Passage School of Fine Cabinet Making, on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast.
As someone who has always been drawn to wood furniture, I was intrigued last September when Meredith–now a Vancouver-based furniture designer–launched Oden, an online gallery showcasing handcrafted furniture by North American artists. Oden was nominated for the 2012 Small Business BC Best Concept Award, and Meredith has been featured in the Vancouver Sun, Woodworkers Journal, and the Denver-based magazine 303.
She also makes costumes and rides a Ducati, Monster 796. Seriously, could this girl be any cooler?
1. What’s your earliest memory of feeling a connection to woodwork and furniture, of getting a sense that it was significant for you?
I first discovered my interest in furniture making while I was a sculpture student at art school. I knew I was hooked, but I didn’t discover my passion for woodworking until 2008. I decided to go into woodworking because it made sense for my career direction, but I had no idea just how much I’d fall in love with it. I was at woodworking school and a few weeks into the program I finally learned to sharpen my plane iron to perfection. I took a pass with my handmade wooden plane and freshly sharpened blade and there it was- deep deep love.
2. What was the turning point in deciding to pursue the craft seriously?
I met a family in France who shared their story about a traumatic yet powerful experience they had during the 2nd war. After the event the family carved words of faith into the underside of their large beautiful dining table. I sat at that table as they shared the story of their ancestors and how the table remains a conduit to their family roots.
3. Can you describe your typical creative process–rituals, time of day, location, tools?
This past year I have reduced my time in the wood shop to really learn how to run my latest venture which is Oden. But a typical shop day starts with an americano and breakfast. Once in the shop I review what’s needed to be done, then I like to work with hand tools or sharpen blades and move into music and loud machinery stuff mid day, winding down the day with quieter work such as design or hand tools.
4. What inspired the name “Oden”?
5. What part of running your own business do you find most challenging?
Everything to do with website maintenance and financials.
6. What do you turn to for inspiration to keep the creative tap flowing?
Images of nature, dancing, and laughing with people I love usually unlock the creative juices.
7. I noticed the other artisans connected with Oden (on the website) are male. Would you say that woodworking is a predominantly male-oriented field? What’s your perspective on this, and how is it changing or evolving?
I meet a decent number of women woodworkers and some are dear friends, but yes, generally it is a more male-oriented field. Statistically, I don’t know if there’s an increase in women woodworkers, but I do know that men over 65 are always surprised by my career choice, whereas men younger are generally not.
8. What stands out as the lesson that has most influenced your work and business?
To listen and learn from business people outside of my industry. The flip side to that is to not let the “you should do this” and “you should do that” confuse me from what feels right to me and my vision.
9. What has surprised you about pursuing your creative passion as a career? Any tips you’d like to share?
The amount of discipline it takes to ensure the manager/back-end stuff is addressed in order to be able to do the creative side of the business surprised me. The tips I have are hire someone to do the stuff you don’t like and are not good at, and when you meet a client that just doesn’t feel right, walk away.
You can contact Meredith and see more beautiful custom furniture at odengallery.com.
Also–check out this awesome video of her creative process in action.