Port Perry, Ontario furniture maker Jason Wheeler on being creative, LEGO and being in the shop solo.
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Q & A with Jason Wheeler
How long have you been building furniture?
Over 10 years
What sort of furniture do you specialize in?
Mainly customized kitchens and modern furniture, but you name it, I’ll make it!
Tell us a couple interesting things about your personal life.
I love cars, specifically hot rods. I’ll be building my very own hot rod this year.
Do you prefer hand tools or power tools?
Definitely prefer power tools, but I’m a hybrid-style guy.
Solid wood or veneer?
Figured wood or straight grain?
Inherited Vintage Stanley Sweetheart or fresh-out-of-the-box Veritas?
Flowing curves or geometric shapes?
Least favourite wood?
This black walnut dresser was a special project for Wheeler. It was a gift to his partner, who had a childhood dresser with a similar style: three drawers and one cabinet with shelving inside. Wheeler wanted to create an 'adult' version for their home. Some of the details include a tapered edge and mitre-fold case construction.
A unique built-in unit in a century home was a fun build for Wheeler, but also a huge challenge as there was a 4" slope in the floor where the unit was to be located. Wheeler creates a lot of interior built-in units. (Photo by Stef Brown)
White Oak Built-In
This project was a unique build using white oak. The designer, Orsi Panos, had a vision for something different, but they worked together to add a traditional wood presence to a beautiful contemporary space. The curved doors were the most challenging part of the build. (Photo by Natalie Borsella)
Quotes from Jason Wheeler
My studio is my 'home'. If I didn't have a family, I'd seriously spend every minute there, not because I ever feel like I have to, but because I truly love it. If I have a 'day off', you'll still likely find me there. I'm a very tidy, organized and clean person, so everything in the shop has a specific spot.
Typically, my day starts early. I naturally wake up between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., and so I'm at the shop by 8 a.m. I'm at my best when I'm at the shop solo. I just go, go go. There are days when I look at the clock, it's 3 p.m. and I realized I haven't eaten lunch. But I love it, it's a rush for me when I'm there.
I've always had a creative headspace. When it comes to my designs, I just get visions and ideas for pieces. I think my being more creative, unique and modern with designs is what people are attracted to.
It's a really neat part about my job — building a piece that someone has a vision to create, but I get to make that vision the reality.
Social media has been a great platform for me to showcase my work. Because it is visually based, I can share my work — the process along the way, the brands and tools I use — and it allows me to fully display my work to the world.
Introducing kids to woodworking at a younger age would be great. Show them how cool it is to be able to build something. I have a six-year old son who loves coming to the shop. He loves the tools, watching me work and spending time with me there. What kid wouldn't love to create and build?
The design typically comes first for me. Once in a while you would stumble across a beautiful piece of natural wood and a client would want to use that for a table or piece of furniture. But for most of the time, I would say it's typically vision, design, create, finish project.
My son motivates me. I want him to have a strong father figure and mentor in his life. I want to show him that when you put your mind to something, believe in yourself and go for it, it can happen. I love bringing him into the shop with me on weekends. He typically asks to go, so we'll go up for a couple of hours. Children have that natural curiosity. They have that creative headspace that for most adults dissipates. I'm hoping he follows my footsteps in finding what he loves, and works hard to accomplish his goals in whatever that may be. I just want him to be happy. He has a great imagination and I love watching him build with his LEGO. Who knows, maybe he'll be the next Wheelers Studio Carpenter!
If you're good at what you do, woodworking is a viable career path. Be humble, put your head down, put in the work, continually learn and 100% it is a viable career path. I was skeptical at the start, as I think most young adults are. We question our choices and decisions. But I'm so glad I stuck to my guns on this one. I love what I do every day and I'm able to support myself and my family.
I guess I've stated it a few times already, but I'm grateful I've been able to pursue my passion, and that people support my business as they do. The carpentry and woodworking industry is tough. There is competition from the box stores, and there are many great designers and architects out there, looking for the next best carpenter. I can proudly say, I have skill and I have learned so much along the way to get to where I am today. This craft brings me joy every day. It allows me to exert my creative drive. It allows me to build beautiful pieces for my clients and customers. It allows me to meet amazing people. I hope that the more people learn about custom furniture, they'll realize that it's made with heart and pride. It's more than just wood, it's the love of the craft.
June July 2020