Canadian Woodworking

Brocklen Johnson

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Vancouver, British Columbia furniture maker Brocklen Johnson on inspiration, commissions and why new makers should imitate, then innovate.

Maker: Brocklen Johnson
Age: 39
Business: Marka Furniture Co.
Location: 1000 Parker St., Vancouver, British Columbia
Education: Red Seal Cabinetmaker/Joiner

Watch our video: Brocklen Johnson

Q & A with Brocklen Johnson

How long have you been building furniture?
Three years.

What sort of furniture do you specialize in?
Solid wood and veneer, residential furniture.

Tell us a couple interesting things about your personal life.
I’m certified to facilitate breathwork. We can change our mental and physical states by influencing how we breathe. Breath is medicine.

If you weren’t a furniture maker what would you be?
I would be dedicating most of my time helping others to connect with themselves to create deeper connections with others.

In order, what are the three most important items in your shop apron?
Pencil, tape measure, Olfa knife.

Do you prefer hand tools or power tools?
Machines and power tools have their place to speed up the process, but I find slowing down and using hand tools allows for a deeper connection with a piece of work.

Solid wood or veneer?
Solid wood. Each piece has such unique characteristics and it’s fun to get creative with the grain.

Figured wood or straight grain?
I really love incorporating some kind of figure into a piece as kind of a feature surrounded or supported by grounding straight grain.

Inherited Vintage Stanley Sweetheart or fresh-out-of-the-box Veritas?
Inherited. I’m deeply grateful to those tools and skills passed down through the generations.

Favourite wood?
Black walnut 100%.

Brocklen Johnson

Brocklen Johnson

“Sidde Stool”
Made of white ash and Danish paper cord, the seat features a weaving technique that doesn’t include pins or hooks. According to Johnson, weaving the seat was not only the most time consuming, but also the most rewarding part of making this stool.

Brocklen Johnson stool

“Claro Bed and Side Tables”
Live edge claro walnut is carefully used to create a harmonious, durable and aesthetically pleasing bedroom set. The drawers in the side tables run on wooden slides, keeping the look and feel simple and traditional.

Brocklen Johnson side table and bed

Cascadia Bench
This bench was designed for a residential entryway to invite warmth and serenity. The piece draws inspiration from George Nakashima’s live edge work. Johnson even poured the custom-formed concrete planter.

Cascadia Bench

Cascadia Bench leg detail

Cascadia Bench leg detail

Quotes from Brocklen Johnson

Once I’ve broken out solid wood parts on the table saw I love getting into a flow on the jointer and planer. As the surfaces get cleaned up, the wood grain really comes through to show its beauty.

There are so many great designers/makers on social media, but I’m inspired when I see what Nick Pedulla is produc­ing. Local designers like Nicholas Purcell, Jeff Martin Joinery and Alex Quiring (Northbound Furniture) are a few more I really admire.

I believe creative inspiration comes from a source greater than me. I like to research designs to really get my excitement build­ing, then I’ll set an intention and do some breathwork or meditate to clear my mind and be open for design ideas to land. It can take a couple days or a week before a good idea comes.

New makers should imitate, then inno­vate. I’ve spent a lot of time spinning my tires trying to reinvent the wheel (pun intended) when an already good design could use a little tweaking with my own flavour. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Commissions are the most satisfying because of their originality. It’s fun to prob­lem solve and make something no one else has made before.

I really enjoy the entire process, discov­ering what the client is looking for, where their inspiration comes from and what their story is, then creating a piece original to them.

I think more exposure to workshops and making more opportunities for creativ­ity and play will bring new makers to the scene. There’s a sense of accomplishment when completing a personal project that will be used daily or given as a gift. The greatest gift we can give someone is our time, and a woodworking project takes a lot of it.

My designs are inspired by the materi­als. I like to get the feel of the space a piece will be in before deciding on materials, and then come the design details.

I’ve been using Procreate on iPad for per­spective millwork design sketching, but I really like good old pencil and paper

I get really fired up in the design phase, then somehow energy wears down in the middle of the build. Once the project is nearly finished it’s amazing to see what has developed from a sketch or an idea.

It’s a fine balance between living in a city that’s affordable, yet with a market that can support a living. I’ve managed to utilize my experience in cabinet making to support my business between custom furniture projects. I get creative outside of furniture making, too.

Any skill can be learned with the right amount of desire. I used to think only “fur­niture makers” could make furniture until I learned how to make furniture.

I built a table for the Canadian Embassy in São Paulo, Brazil, that I’m really proud of. It’s 54" wide and 12' long with two 4' exten­sions on each end. The thing is massive. Solid walnut frame and legs with bookmatched quarter cut veneer top.


Brocklen Johnson was profiled in February 2024


Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches


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