Last October, I taught a small box-making class in my shop. One of the students was Alexis Rosa Caldero, and she rocked it. But what most impressed me about her is this: She brought her mom with her to take the class also. And her mom did awesome! It was so much fun to have them both in the class. Alexis studied design in school, and has been woodworking for about 11 years. After school, she scored an unbelievable job as a designer working alongside Mira Nakashima at George Nakashima Woodworkers. That’s legit, and much better shop credentials than being a goofball at a woodworking magazine for 10 years. Follow her IG feed: @lexcmakes. Read her answers to my questions below.
What got you stared woodworking?
A desire to be in conversation with more than just an object and the one who uses it, but with a material that has a life of its own.
What are the 3 most important things you’ve learned in woodworking?
Patience, confidence, & humility
Why woodworking? What does it give you that other activities, crafts, etc. don’t?
There is an unpredictability to working with wood that you can’t find in most other materials. I find it a grounding process and enjoy collaborating with nature on each design.
What’s something everyone should know?
Aside from safety considerations, there is no single “right” way to do a thing. Find an approach that you enjoy (and that works) and run with it.
Why do you make the specific things that you make?
As a furniture designer, my craft up to this point has centered on the needs of the wood at hand while folding in the wants of the client. Now, I’m in the process of flipping my approach. In recognizing that generalized standards marginalize people, I’m interested in meeting the needs of the body beyond ergonomics while being guided by what the material has to offer. What is central becomes the person and what their body carries, allowing the wood to act as an agent for corporeal healing.
Who has had the greatest impact on your woodworking?
My first instructor in furniture design, Tom Merriman, was the spark who ignited my connection with the art of woodworking in undergrad and opened the doors that have shaped my trajectory.
Have you incorporated lessons learned in other parts of your life in your woodworking?
Absolutely! Patience is a big one, I’m not sure if that came from woodworking, but woodworking sure has honed it.
What’s one thing you’d teach another woodworking to help them improve their skills, understanding or design?
Sharpen those blades! There’s nothing more helpful in the shop than a mirror sharp blade. When it comes to design, iteration is a super power. You’ll find out what you like, what you don’t like, and sometimes surprise yourself.
I love furniture design, and smart techniques. This blog is about both.