The magic of Canada’s old-growth forests and the turbulent price of lumber were narratives firmly rooted in the news over the last year. And — much like last year — they reminded us that when the things we love become scarce, we come to treasure them that much more. Here, we profile three local artisans who specialize in custom, often upcycled wooden decor pieces that deserve spots in any home. And, like the cross section of any tree, each one has a story to tell.
“The thing that I love about woodworking is the fluidity of it. No two pieces of wood are the same, each tree has its own fingerprint.” Those are wise words for someone who only started woodworking four years ago, but 26-year-old Jessy Sannachan, of RM&BRD, has grown quickly enough within the medium to now be able to do it full time. “I got into woodworking almost by accident,” she says. “I saw a loft bed that I fell in love with and decided I wanted one for myself, but I had no idea where I could buy it, so I decided I wanted to make my own. I enrolled in school that day in 2016 and — six months later — I was sitting in a [woodworking] classroom.” She’s had her fair share of criticism for pursuing woodwork, but she shrugs it off. “It’s merely my interest in challenging myself and pushing the boundaries of what I can create that makes the fire in my belly grow larger.”
Displayed on a bookshelf or mantel, perhaps with a single dried arrangement, “The Vessel Family” is made up of mini, medium, and large dried bloom vessels. Available in ash or walnut and gentle by nature, they incorporate movement in the grain, but also in the soft curves and structure of the linear sides. “I feel compelled by minimalism,” says Sannachan. “I love the idea of creating an object that would fit into any space or environment.”
More than 25 years ago, a troubled youth named Holly Carmichael decided to carve out a new path for herself by applying to a social work program at what was then Grant MacEwan Community College. But, while awaiting an acceptance letter, an unexpected offer for an entry-level position in a wood furniture manufacturing shop set her on an entirely different path, one not typically walked by women. Although she did end up volunteering with high-risk youth for 14 years, she never looked back when it came to her career in woodworking.
“When I started my own company, Truwood Artisans, in 2004, the industry was — and still is — heavily male dominated,” says Carmichael. “There were no other female single owners, besides the husband-and-wife teams. I feel extremely grateful and honoured that the guys in this industry took me seriously and showed nothing but respect for me and what I was trying to establish.”
With three strategically placed aluminum bow ties holding the top in place, Carmichael calls this live edge walnut and steel console table simply, “Together” — a reflection of the material, and of the times. “Live edge wood has many challenges with a mind of its own, because it keeps wanting to move, twist, warp, cup, crack and split, given its environment,” she says. “Our job as woodworkers is to ‘tame’ it so that it remains beautiful and true furniture in your home for decades.”
Thirty-year old Zach Kirinic officially launched his woodworking business, DRVO Handmade, in 2019 at Edmonton’s last in-person Royal Bison Craft Fair before the pandemic. The brand name is pronounced “der-vo,” meaning “wood” in Croatian, Kirinic’s heritage. “You’ve got to roll the ‘r’ a little bit too,” he explains. You could say that attention to detail is mirrored in his work — the roll of the “r” like the curl of the wood as it’s scraped ever-so-intention-ally with a blade. His interest in the craft began at an early age when he became captivated with a collection of wooden spoons owned by his grandmother, or baka. “I saw that over their decades of usage, those spoons personified her character,” he says. “With a background in anthropology studies, I want-ed to create cultural objects that told the story of the be- holder and how they live on a daily basis.”
Handcrafted in his Edmonton studio, Kirinic’s wooden spoons are some of DRVO’s most popular pieces, which are made out of the “spoon carver’s triad:” walnut, maple and cherry. “I think the reason people connect with my spoons so much is that they are intrinsically life-sustaining,” he says. “A spoon feeds. Whether it be a scoop for your morning coffee, a quick taste of your stove-top meal, or a serving at a gathering of friends and family, it nurtures you and those around you.” Each spoon is distinctive, nearly so beautiful you’d pause before using it. But Kirinic attests, “Although pretty in their original form, I don’t think my pieces become truly beautiful until they are marked by use. In my opinion, the best way to cherish something is to use it.”
This article appears in the October 2021 issue of Edify