DEGREE: B.S. in psychology
JOB TITLE: Owner and operator of Bristol Woodworks, a custom woodworking shop in Bristol, Vermont
FAVORITE TRINITY MEMORY: My junior year abroad in Vienna was a grand adventure for me, as I experienced a foreign culture for the first time in my life. My instructors were top-notch, and the rich history of central Europe was illuminated for me through the amazing architecture of Vienna.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy working independently as an artist and a craftsman and meeting and engaging with clients who share a love of beautiful handmade furniture. A surprise for me has been the emotional aspect of woodworking, in carefully crafting and restoring pieces of antique furniture; there is a visceral connection when working closely with such historic pieces. Their history, including their maker, their place of origin, the selected wood, and the present owners combine to produce a rich fabric and fascinating story. That my clients select me to work on such pieces is a constant joy, and I always approach my work with reverence, respect, and deep appreciation for the original makers. As to my clients, their interest for finely crafted furniture inspires me, and their love and devotion for a precious family heirloom always humbles me; that I am entrusted with their beloved rocking chairs, dining tables, etc., to restore these pieces for the next generation is a very gratifying and rewarding experience.
How did you get started in your field?
Upon graduating from Trinity, I was sure that I wanted a career in child psychology. During a brief stint in special education, I took an evening class in furniture design at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Something clicked, and I discovered how much I enjoyed designing and building furniture. I worked for a variety of different custom woodworking businesses over the next decade until I finally wound up as a wood crafter at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., building furnishings and casework for art collections. This led to a position as an exhibit specialist at the Smithsonian Institution, where I worked with scientists, curators, and design staff in fashioning one-of-a-kind display cases and dioramas. I became more proficient and skilled in working with a wide variety of building materials, and I learned a great deal more about design, space, and the creative arts. In 1998, I started my own custom woodworking business while living in a historic neighborhood in downtown Baltimore. I decided to specialize in architectural entry doors, moldings, paneling, etc. and branched out to serving some well-known historic churches. Soon I realized that the restoration of antique furniture was a natural extension of my own keen interest and appreciation of history, woodworking, and the fine arts in general.
Was there a professor who was particularly influential?
I especially remember a survey of contemporary literature class with Professor Hugh Ogden. He prodded us to think critically and taught us that careful reading was a necessary prerequisite to a better appreciation of all novels. We all greatly sharpened our reading skills under his tutelage. I also took several classes with Professor Randy Lee in the Psychology Department. His passion for psychology was evident in how he brought alive the theories of Freud, Jung, Adler, Fromm, and more. My senior seminar involved volunteer work at Hartford’s Institute of Living, where I received a good dose of practical, hands-on experience in working with patients. This class broadened my understanding of the healing arts, as Professor Lee skillfully blended his lectures with what we were learning in the field.
How did your experience at Trinity help prepare you for what you do now?
My career as a woodworker and furniture restorer owes much to my years at Trinity, where I learned about critical thinking, listening carefully, and being open to new ideas and concepts. I believe that my liberal arts education encouraged me to look differently at our world. More and more, I see my career as a further extension of my Trinity years, in that I continue to search for meaning and beauty in an ever-changing world. To quote an old woodworking adage, “The life is so short, the craft so long to learn!” I feel so fortunate and blessed to live the life of a craftsman and to do what I do.