Arts & Entertainment

Carving out a future

 | September 28, 2020

LOCAL ARTIST TURNS OUT MODERN WOOD PIECES

Jackie Chapman has learned many of her skills online. Photo supplied

An artist who has always found peace on mountains surrounded by trees, Jackie Chapman is now turning those trees into unique and practical hand crafted art pieces. 

Living in Sun Peaks before moving north to Blue River, B.C., Chapman has always felt at home outdoors. 

Three years ago Chapman got into woodworking as a hobby, starting with making bowls by woodturning, a process similar to using a pottery wheel. 

Her partner and his brother, both woodworkers themselves, helped guide her as she learned and started creating more pieces. As she branched out into techniques they weren’t familiar with she began learning from online videos. 

“Then my first piece of it actually turned out surprisingly well,” Chapman said. “And I had a few friends ask me what I was planning to do with them, if I was planning on selling them, and at that point it hadn’t even crossed my mind at all.” 

At the time she didn’t think she’d ever make a living selling wooden bowls, she said, but slowly she began to sell a few and started creating other pieces, such as essential oil holders and serving boards and bowls of all sizes. 

Since beginning she’s grown the hobby into a full-time business. With the help of Community Futures’ guidance Jak Natural Designs has grown a strong Instagram following and Chapman also attends markets and has pieces for sale in Mainstreet Clothing, a locally owned retail store downtown Kamloops. 

She said the pandemic cancelled many of the markets this year, which had been her main source of sales. But the loss of markets gave her the opportunity to move her business online, something she had wanted to do previously but hadn’t had the time or motivation. 

“Because of COVID, I was able to switch everything online, which I’d been planning on doing already, I just hadn’t sat down and actually did it. So it really pushed me to put things online.” 

Her website is now live and sells already-made pieces as well as custom orders. 

As her business has grown, she said, so have the work she creates. A larger lathe has meant a big learning curve but also an upgrade in her products and skill set. 

“I’ve been able to turn a lot larger scale pieces. And my skill set is growing, I’ve been able to take on larger pieces as well just because like, when you increase the size, you also increase the weight of the wood. And then you increase the risk factor because, when things are spinning from like 500 to 1,200 RPM, it can get kind of scary.” 

It’s helped her to learn new techniques and become more efficient in her work, although it still takes a few hours to shape the bowl and even longer to dry and oil them after they’re complete.

The work has paid off. Chapman said her art becoming her full time job has been a dream come true. 

“It started almost a pipe dream,” she said. “There was a while where I was like ‘okay, you can’t do this, you’re not going to get to where you want to be.’ But I think the more I do it, and the more I learn and the better I get, and the quicker I get. 

“Hearing from the community and hearing from friends or even people I don’t know, commenting on my work, that means the world.” 

It’s given her a chance to connect with her creative roots and do something she loves. 

“Most of my adult life has been more about mountain living. I’m a super avid snowboarder, so that’s been a really big focus of mine…I created when I was younger, but not so much during my adult years. But now reverting back to it I can’t believe years that I went without creating things…it was really like, oh how was I missing this?”

Chapman with one of her bowls. Photo supplied

It’s a dream she said would’ve been so much harder without the help of Community Futures programming. 

“It’s definitely been a super integral part of my business and such an instrumental tool for me, throughout the past year and even now they were able to teach me things that I would have had no idea that were so important for operating and starting a successful small business…I think the craft part of my business is definitely a really big part but the whole administration side I couldn’t do without Community Futures, they were just so helpful.” 

Looking forward Chapman said she wants to keep creating new pieces, take on more commissions and work to balance keeping a supply of stock on hand. She’s also looking for creative ways to make her work stand out and wants to learn how to incorporate copper. 

Her work can be found online at jaknaturaldesigns.com or on Instagram at @jak.naturaldesigns.

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