Woodworking may seem like a hobby for those in their golden years, but the Whidbey Island Woodworkers Guild’s Woodpalooza will show visitors that a younger generation has already taken up the tools.
Woodpalooza is celebrating its 15th anniversary this Labor Day weekend. Visitors can see local creations from about 20 artists in the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts from 12-5 p.m., Sept. 1-3, according to Whidbey Island Woodworkers Guild Secretary Gary Leake.
“There’s new ideas, new blood, younger woodworkers – amateurs and professionals,” he said of this year’s show.
Leake and his wife do antique furniture restorations themselves.
Although this is their first time in the show, Brian and Catherine Noel, of Oak Harbor, have a long history with woodworking. Brian Noel started woodworking about 20 years ago and is self-taught.
In the beginning, he said, he made “a lot of firewood and a lot of mess-ups. But it was good.”
“I developed my own style and way of doing things – obviously I could have benefitted a lot from learning from somebody.”
“But when you’re confronted with a difficult situation you can handle it a little easier,” he said, noting that the way he approaches challenges now is the result of those early years on his own.
One of the first things he made was a chair inspired by famous woodworker Sam Maloof’s style.
After looking at the pictures from a book his wife bought, he set to work.
“In hindsight I should’ve started with something a little simpler. That was rigorous trying to teach myself the right angles,” he said.
However, he’s since incorporated the sculpted, organic style into his own work.
A large portion of his current work includes custom-made woodworking tools.
“That was kind of a happy accident,” he said. “You don’t make a lot of money as a craftsman – and I wanted some nice tools. So I made my own woodworking tools, kind of high-end saws and tools that go along with that.”
He hopes to start teaching classes sometime next year.
Further south, Marian Quarrier, of Coupeville, said her connection to woodworking started when she was a teenager watching her brother restore old boats.
Quarrier was a landscape architect for many years and enrolled in a program at Seattle Central Community College in her mid-40s for a career change.
“Since I sort of had it in my blood, watching my brother and working on old boats growing up, it was something I’d wanted to do,” she said.
The program changed her life, she said, and taught her the necessary skills to get started.
“To be able to create something from raw wood and turn it into something like furniture is just an amazing thing to do,” she said, “and I’m still learning everyday.”
Quarrier said the woodworkers on Whidbey had been very welcoming of her when she got started.
Glen Pearson echoed Quarrier’s sentiments about the community when he arrived as a recent transplant from California. He said it was important to him to find a place that had a “strong woodworking culture, and that’s in all the Northwest, but especially on Whidbey,” he said. It will be his second year in the Woodpalooza show.
Pearson started as a professional woodworker when he was 14, doing small, built-in work. He’s a third generation craftsman, he said, and he worked with his family business doing real estate restorations and custom work. He recently transitioned to creating single pieces of furniture in his shop in Greenbank.
This year is Arlin Peterman’s first year showing something specifically made for Woodpalooza. He started his own business last year out of his shop in Clinton, and didn’t have time to finish a piece for the Woodpalooza show, but this year he’s working on a bench that’s styled after Japanese design influences.
Peterman’s business, Khaya Woodworks, is the result of a creative pursuit that began in his 20s. He graduated college with a music degree focusing on classical trumpet, and was in his second year of graduate school when he made the switch to woodworking.
“My dad is a carpenter…I took woodshop in high school and I had been around tools a lot, but growing up I had never really shown a big interest in it because I was playing trumpet or sports,” Peterman said. “I was looking for something to do other than music and I still wanted to do something creative and artistic, but something that had more of a practical application.”
After he finished a nine-month program in Massachusetts, he came back home to Whidbey with his wife.
His business’s name, Khaya Woodworks, has a lot of meaning for him: khaya means “home” in Zulu, a language spoken in South Africa, where his wife used to live. Khaya wood is also a type of African mahogany.
“People need cabinets and tables and chairs and entertainment centers in their house and there’s always an appetite for handmade pieces,” Peterman said. “I like to think that my work makes people’s houses feel more like home.”