LJ Woodworking Awards - Winter 2008 #7: Interview With The Winners

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Blog entry by Martin Sojka posted 02-15-2008 09:24 PM 1923 reads 0 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: And The Winners Are... Part 7 of LJ Woodworking Awards - Winter 2008 series no next part

How does success in our Winter Awards feel?

Gary: It feels strange. I am honored that so many of my woodworking peers liked my work. I think that this is the highest complement you can obtain.

Ryan: It really feels great. As the “new guy” on the board, I am amazed at this welcome. The project was a tough one, taking a picture from your mind’s eye and shaping it out of wood is tough enough…add a 2X4 into the equation, and results are seldom what you intended! The fact that the LJ’s here were happy enough with the end result to vote for it is extremely satisfying. It reminds me why I keep doing this.

What inspired the design of your winning project?

Gary: I realized early on that your standard box with a lid wouldn’t win this competition with so many great woodworkers out there. My thought was to make something unique and at the same time something that my wife would find useful. With my birdcage I thought just the uniqueness of it would be enough to carry the day, but Ryan’s great looking table and Stewart’s fantastic chair put me in my place.

Ryan: Just a picture in my mind. I have sculpted cattails before, but I’ve had this idea in my head to do a table forever. This contest was the perfect avenue to make that “vision” a reality.

What Legacy do you hope to leave behind in your work?

Gary: That is something I have never considered before. I guess nothing more then for someone in my family to be able to someday say, “my grandfather (or whatever) made this”.

Ryan: Legacy? I really don’t have an answer for that….probably more than anything I hope that I inspire others to practice the craft. In our modern world, the hand made is becoming a rarity…and the people to practice that craft are a dying breed. There is beauty in the elegance of a well made joint, or the glow of a finish applied with care that is rapidly being replaced with staples, particle board and lacquer….I want my children and grandchildren to see the craft for what it is…not what it “used to be”. To that end I tutor as many young woodworkers as I can manage, and every so often…you get that one young person with that “look”, that “fire” that you know “gets it”. That is the legacy I hope to leave.

How has working with wood changed your life?

Gary: I wouldn’t say that is has changed my life, but added to it. It gave me an outlet to express myself.
I don’t consider myself artistic, but more technical in my woodworking. That being said it gave me the chance
to add to my skills.

Ryan: It has made me a better person. Not bogged down with faxes and phone calls and computers and secretaries and assistants and meetings and deadlines and budgets and projections and cost overruns and scheduling….you get the idea. There is something therapeutic about what I do….I take trees that have been taken apart, and put them back together in different ways…. on the most basic of levels, it really doesn’t get simpler than that. And simple is good.

What part of the woodworking journey has been the most challenging for you?

Gary: I think the part of woodworking I love most is trying to figure out HOW to do things rather than actually doing them. I think that the physical part of making something is the easy part, but thinking about WHAT and HOW to make something as the real challenge. Oh, yea! Also trying to figure out how to fix your
mistakes, or if you can’t fix them, try to incorporate then into your project to make it look like you planned
it that way. That’s a challenge!

Ryan: Finances. Pure and simple. The leap into full time woodworking from a career in finance certainly was a tough transition. We had a tough go for the first few years, but my wife and I are stronger because of it. We have a beautiful little 5 year old girl that I would have never gotten to see grow up at my old job, my family is closer as a result of my not being gone from 7-7, and although I may have had to give up the convertible for a pick-up truck, I see that little girl and my (very) pregnant wife sitting across the table, and I realize that I am the richest man in the world.

Who are your 5 most inspirational woodworkers?

Gary: To tell you the truth, I have never known any other woodworkers. The closest I can come to someone is Norm Abrams on New Yankee Workshop which I have watched for years. Until I got involved with Lumberjocks. I had never heard of Maloof or Krenov.

Ryan: You know, It’s tempting to quote the popular gurus…Maloof, Stickley, “Norm” :), but the fact is that I draw my inspiration from “regular” guys. While I admire people like Maloof for their execution of the craft, they don’t “inspire” me. Seeing work done by my peers, especially those that go “outside the box” and work to realize their own personal vision are the most inspirational. I can look at someone’s work and say :”hey! I’m not the only one!” The work I’ve seen done on forums like this have inspired me far more than the books I’ve read by/about the masters. People like LJ’s Gord Graff are the kind of people I’m talking about. The work may not be to everyone’s taste, but it IS true to the craftsman’s vision, and…And in my opinion, that’s what it’s all about.

If you could project your work 10 years into the future, what would you like to see?

Gary: First of all I would to say that I always hope to have 10 more years to work. During those 10 years
I just want to be able to make the things that make my family and myself happy. I don’t sell anything I make,
but I can see the day when I will have to start giving things away to family members because I am running
out of room for it all.

Ryan: I’d like to be in a position where I can focus solely on creative works, and not have to worry about paying the bills. I’d like to reach the point where I don’t have to balance the need to do it perfectly with the need to “get it done”.....that, or have that TV show I’m working towards ;)

Thank You!

Gary: The thank’s goes to you, my extended Lumberjock family. A special thanks to Martin for putting all of this together, and to MsDebbie for all the behind the scenes work she does.

Ryan: I know this sounds canned, but sincerely, thank you. Thank you for the welcome into your community, thank you for the encouragement and support, and thank you for voting for me! It really has been MY pleasure throughout.

17 comments so far

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 5206 days

#1 posted 02-15-2008 09:49 PM

Congratulations, Guys! You both do incredible work.

-- Happy woodworking!

View Thuan's profile


203 posts in 5150 days

#2 posted 02-15-2008 09:57 PM

I’ll tell you, if one day I win a contest and they ask me who inspires me, I would say Gary and Ryan.
Thanks Guys.

-- Thuan

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 5659 days

#3 posted 02-15-2008 10:04 PM

great interview – Ryan, your not a faceless name anymore!

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Ryan Shervill's profile

Ryan Shervill

278 posts in 5144 days

#4 posted 02-15-2008 11:00 PM

LOL @ Scottb. I’ve never really been “faceless”, theres lots of pics of my ugly mug flloating around the ‘net…I just never thought to put it in an avatar :)

Speaking of my ugly mug…wanna see my rack? ;
(Top left…and I KNOW what you were thinking!)

Thanks everyone,


-- Want to see me completely transform a house? Look here:

View Grumpy's profile


26812 posts in 5183 days

#5 posted 02-15-2008 11:43 PM

Well done Gary & Ryan. Keep up the good work.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 5206 days

#6 posted 02-15-2008 11:48 PM

Offering a huge Rah Rah to both of you. You guys really did some memorable projects. With all the great projects on this forum that means something.

View mrtrim's profile


1696 posts in 5212 days

#7 posted 02-16-2008 12:09 AM

great interview of two fine gentlemen and very gifted craftsmen ! congrats to both

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 5154 days

#8 posted 02-16-2008 12:45 AM

I have said it before but congratulations are merited once more. Guys it is a pleasure to know you both. You are are excellent examples, both with respect to your woodworking craftmanship and your character as well, to us all.

What you both have is a God-given gift that is truly inspirational. Your sharing a portion of your lives with the rest of us deserves a thank you again from my heart.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Zuki's profile


1404 posts in 5409 days

#9 posted 02-16-2008 01:18 AM

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6879 posts in 5311 days

#10 posted 02-16-2008 01:55 AM

Nice work fellow’s, and congratulations on well deserved wins.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Les Hastings's profile

Les Hastings

1306 posts in 5105 days

#11 posted 02-16-2008 03:12 AM

Congratulations guy’s on well deserved awards your entries were inspiring projects.

-- Les, Wichita, Ks. (I'd rather be covered in saw dust!)

View gizmodyne's profile


1785 posts in 5422 days

#12 posted 02-16-2008 06:45 AM

Well done. Interesting thoughts. Great feature Martin.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View Roger Strautman's profile

Roger Strautman

657 posts in 5465 days

#13 posted 02-16-2008 12:09 PM

Congratulations guys!!! Very good projects. Don’t let the creativity stop now keep designing.

-- " All Things At First Appear Difficult"

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5492 days

#14 posted 02-16-2008 01:09 PM

wonderful interview and responses.
It truly is an honour to know both of you through the LJ community.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 5631 days

#15 posted 02-16-2008 02:14 PM

Congratulations to two great!!! fellow Lumberjocks.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

showing 1 through 15 of 17 comments

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