Respecting the Trees. Meet Chara Dow of Chara Dow Rustic Works

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(photography by Brenna Thering of Brenna Thering Photography)

Tell us a little about you & and what you do.

My name is Chara Dow and my business is Chara Dow Rustic Works. I build custom and unique pieces of rustic furniture and enjoy carving wooden spoons in-between larger projects.

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What are you passionate about? What makes you tick?

Trees are my passion. Rustic furniture is a niche of woodworking that allows me to build pieces that very personally reflect the origins of the material. I am paying my respects to the tree itself, not a lumber mill. Spending time in the woods where I grew up constantly brings me back to that passion and keeps me grounded.

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How did you get started? What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting?

I got started by watching my Father teaching himself to build rustic furniture and experiment with green woodworking techniques as a child. Eventually I started working with him and then on my own. I was fortunate to have so much of what is needed for start up already provided me in his shop. The challenge has been marketing and looking for the right audience for my work while trying to learn good business practices. This challenge continues.

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What is your biggest regret?

My biggest regret is not taking longer to apprentice before diving into selling my work. I wish I had paced myself before attempting to make a living off of it.

What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had said to you?

Don’t try to make a living off your craft immediately. Work slowly, thoroughly and learn to love and cherish every aspect before you add on the business stressors. Most importantly make sure you know exactly what your doing and why you are doing it. Don’t copy a trend that isn’t deeply personal to you. Care about what you do, you will need that tenacity to get you through creative slumps and financial woes.

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What is your favorite part of what you do?

The quiet place between my brain, my hands and the wood when I am immersed in a project and have the shop to myself. The many hours (sometimes days) I spend with each branch, or each spoon. The freedom to explore the designs in my head and trust my instincts and listen to the woodgrain and learn from the materials I’m working with. There is a peace, attentiveness and personal determination that is unrivaled. When a project is finally completed and I get to enjoy the fruits of my labor and see my visions come to life it is the most silently empowering thing I have experienced.

(lettering by Elaina DeBoard)

Name some of your favorite local creatives/small business owners that you really admire.

The small business owners/creatives I admire most are the women doing something that they are pationate about which is also something very important in the world. Which usually means its very taxing, not financially rewarding, or that they’ve chosen a very difficult road to go down. I can’t pick one but a few of my favorite examples would be Lisa Barker’s work with Seedfolk City Farm, Petra Page-Mann’s devotion to quality and ethics in seed production at Fruition Seeds, the unstoppable Olga of Smugtown Mushrooms, and Jesse Ames at Yoga Vibe, which provides a supportive place for marginal communities to practice yoga, and her wonderful pay-what-you-can classes which makes it accessible for low income individuals.

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