Makers Gotta Make. Meet Woodworker Amy Grigg

Photography by Lindsay Lau of Lindsay Stephany Photography

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
My name is Amy Grigg of Amy Grigg Designs. I am an artist and woodworker. I make bowls, boxes and cutting boards from repurposed and sustained yield hardwoods.

What are you passionate about? What makes you tick?
I’m passionate about staying true to myself no matter what. I try to make careful, deliberate choices about how I spend my time. I don’t want to lose sight of what brings me joy. The lure toward money or “security” or “image” can be very tempting. I have to continue to slow down, simplify, stay in the moment. I try to remember that I already have everything I need. Sometimes I will get caught up thinking that I need to produce more, produce faster, hire help, grow the business. Those thoughts (which are very reasonable and necessary for many businesses) can take me away from my true desire, which is to be a maker, not a manager, to live simply, to be content. It can be a tough call sometimes when a lucrative offer comes along that is not aligned with my intentions. Money can tempt me into forgetting what I really want.         

How did you get started?
I can’t say I really started being creative at any certain point in my life. It’s always been a part of how I am in the world. Even as a young child, making art or craft has been a form of self soothing for me. I am noticeably irritable and off center if too many days pass without a creative outlet. The work I do today is the manifestation of a life spent exploring my curiosity. I never had a goal to be a woodworker. I graduated art school in 1995 and worked several mediums until I stumbled into woodworking in 2001. It was a totally random event when I was asked to help out a woodworker part time. I fell in love with woodworking and three years later I had my own shop.

Lettering by Brittany Statt of Bee Paper House

What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting?
Starting out as a business, everything felt difficult. I was no longer playing around. I took a loan to buy equipment and I had to find a way to make money. Plagued with self doubt and having no idea if my new love could be a viable career I felt like a crazy person. I was fueled by a passion to pursue this love and totally in the dark about how to go about it. It required a huge leap of faith. Actually, it required daily leaps of faith, hourly even. In all aspects of my life, my difficulties lay in my mindset. Becoming a “woodworker” was no exception. You have to value myself and your work if you expect others to do so. This was by far my biggest challenge. I’ve come a long way in this department but I still work on it. I am my worst critic.

What is your biggest regret?
I wish I had taken private lessons in woodturning instead of learning on my own. I wasted a great deal of time doing things wrong.

What is your best advice to someone just starting out?
A. Get clear about why you want to be a maker. You don’t really get to clock out, ever, so be sure about why you want to clock in. It gets really hard, remember why you’re doing it.
B. Find good role models. Learn not just about about people who are doing what you want to do, but people who live life in the way you want to live it. They might be hedge fund managers, or mechanics or artists. If they have what you want, talk to them. Learn why they love their life.
C. Get lots of help. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Take a class, seminar, retreat or intensive. I was very stubborn and broke and took years to teach myself what I could have learned in a few classes with a master.
D. Be original. Trust that in time your own style will emerge.

What advice do you wish someone had said to you?
Dear Amy, this gig gets really hard. Stop being so isolated. Balance your life with great friends who will offer perspective and be there during the good and bad times.

What inspires you?  
I am inspired by nature, art and people. Nature is perfectly and effortlessly creating beauty that is impossible to replicate. To closely study a flower or a fern, a feather, a stone, it’s all so amazing to me. I am also inspired by art and creativity. Not just by the product or process but the mystery that brings forth inspiration. There is an inner calling that yearns to be answered. I respect and am inspired by those who bravely dedicate themselves to answering that call.

How do you recharge creatively?
There are a few ways I recharge. Solitude is the big one. I need a lot of alone time. I find the outside world exhausting. My favorite thing to do is take my dog to the woods where hopefully I will encounter no people. It calms and renews me. I also enjoy reading the work of certain poets who describe the world in a way that makes me feel understood. For a visual inspiration I like to google image search: “woodturning, woodworking, ceramics, glass blowing, basket weaving, raku, bowls, cement art, stone,” instagram also has some really talented people who get me charged up.

What is the most challenging part of running your business?
The answer is in the question. Running the business is the hardest part of running the business. I really just want to make things. However, as it turns out, making is only a small part of the whole. While I keep trying to deny this fact it continues to rear it’s ugly head as my website needs updating, my work needs to be photographed, supplies must be ordered, emails need answering, work needs to be packed, labeled, shipped, and wait, it’s tax time again? How did that happen? Marketing? What is that? It’s a lot. And it’s really hard for me to keep up with because I want to go play.

What is your favorite part of what you do?
I don’t have just one favorite part. I need variety and intensity in my work and life. Some days all I want to do is chainsaw logs, some days it’s refined finish work I crave. I am fortunate that woodworking has so many different facets and can satisfy my variable moods. More important to me is the feeling I get when I slow down for a moment and realize that I am living in a way I had only dreamed of in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t arrived. I live very simply (and frugally) in order to do what I love. But when I stop and look at the reality of what I am doing on a daily basis I am so grateful. It’s actually working.

Name some local creatives/business owners that you really admire.
I’m a big fan of the women over at More Fire Glass Studio. Elizabeth Lyons creates beautiful work. Watching her and Jen Schenzing blow glass together is something special to behold and the new gallery space they have worked so hard to create is amazing. They work harder than most people I know and still mange to be kind, socially conscious, well rounded humans.

I’m sure I am forgetting many, and some of my very favorites have had to relocate to other cities, but here are some more favorites:
- Jim Deluca, painter
- Marisa Krol, Interstellar Lovecraft Jewelry
- Sara Silvio Jewelry
- Chara Dow, woodworker
- Natalie Sinisgalli Photography
- Tricia and Micah at Trim Candles