We recently came across Steelwood Design, a Vancouver business designing and making their own spin of lovely and rustic furniture all out of reclaimed materials. Read the interview below about how they are inspired to hand-make their pieces.
Who are you and where is your workshop/store/studio?
I am a mother and wife, a business partner to my father, a welder, carpenter and a wood and steel finder. Dad and I work together in a wood shop with a separate metal shop attached. It’s in North Vancouver. We do mostly custom work and people can view our past works on our website. We are in a gallery in Edgemont Village called Tartooful and a home decor store in Lumsden, Saskatoon called La Vault.
What is your studio like?
Ha! a mess because we only use reclaimed materials, we must take them when they are offered. Therefore, the wood shop is storing wood and the metal shop is storing all the metal. You can’t leave the wood outside as it is a sponge for moisture, so my house stores a lot of lumber too.
When and why did you decide to start Steelwood Design?
My sister and I have been raised with a ‘do it yourself’ mentality. We poured cement as toddlers, I welded at the age of 3! I screamed the whole time as i was terrified of the helmet. My husband and I flipped a couple houses with my dad, but then the market crashed and we had a child, hence no more flipping but I needed to still create. I asked Dad to help me build a couple pieces of furniture, not to sell but just for our house. But friends started buying them and Steelwood was born.
What originally inspired you to start working with reclaimed unique materials and where do you source/find these items?
We use reclaimed materials because we feel life doesn’t have to be a one shot system. I like knowing the chain light shining down on me used to hold some of the first barges in our port. Wood from the first houses built in Vancouver to me is awesome! I love history and have a vivid imagination. To think of all the people that have touched, used, moved our materials is cool to us. I knock on doors, chat with people and we always have our eyes open for materials, my 4 yr old daughter even brings me wood and metal.
Why do you hand make your products? What do you get out of it?
We make everything with OUR hands. For my dad, he likes to see if it can be done. For me I love making things, I get such a rush from seeing something I made and that a client loves it. I also love showing my daughter that you don’t need to do what “everyone” thinks you should do, but that you need to pay attention to what YOU love to do and everything else will fall into place.
Where can we buy your products and what new things are you currently working on?
Call or email me anytime. I post all creations on social media, to give you an idea of what we can do. You can look on our website or visit Tartooful and La Vault. We just completed a deadly custom live edge walnut 9ft curved bar top. We’re currently working on a 36″ tall stump table and cantilevered fir bench for a private residence in whistler and a couple of 10ft benches with chain link legs… The list goes on
How would you like your collection to grow? And where else would you like to see it sold?
Hmm hard one. I just want to keep plugging away keeping it a cottage industry. My mecca is Inform, but dad is retired and I am a mother first so who knows. we really don’t want to lose the hand made, functional art feel. We don’t want to get into mass producing anything.
Which is your favourite piece and why?
Another hard one!
One of them is, one day dad was out and I had the shop to myself. I had grabbed some old turnbuckles on a salvage hunt, that he told me were garbage and said that I was nuts. I saw them as stools. I cut all the steel and welded them together. He came in and said “Alexis you’re nuts!” I said “dad they will sell!” (we both are a tad stubborn at times) long story short. I pulled up the other day and I said “dad, you owe me an apology” he asked “why?” “because those bar stools sold and we have an order for more!” he said “yep I guess I do”.
But really I guess it will go to our first creations. The Stiletto Table, and the In the Beginning Lamp. Gotta give extra love to those that started us on this wild adventure.
What is the best thing about what you do?
Simple – working with my dad
Thanks Alexis for answering our questions. Good luck!
Gwyn & Tamra