Toronto, Ontario studio furniture maker Heidi Earnshaw on trends, women in woodworking and the functionality of wooden objects.
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Q & A with Heidi Earnshaw
How long have you been building furniture?
15 years under my own name.
What sort of furniture do you specialize in?
Residential, solid wood furniture.
If you were not a furniture maker what would you be?
If I could go right back to the 10th grade? A horticulturalist or musician.
Do you prefer hand tools or power tools?
Both play an important role in my practice. I have a 16″ Aldinger jointer from 1947 that rewards me with its solid steadfastness each time I use it, but a quiet Saturday, listening to the CBC and taking pleasure in handwork is a much welcomed break from the usual hustle and bustle.
Solid wood or veneer?
Solid, but I appreciate veneer for those times when a detail I am after can’t be made in solid.
Figured wood or straight grain?
Straight, for subtlety and clarity of form.
Inherited Vintage Stanley Sweetheart or freshout-of-the-box Veritas?
Vintage Stanley, so I am reminded that I am part of a long tradition.
Flowing curves or geometric shapes?
Photo by Carey Jernigan
Earnshaw shares a large Toronto studio with a host of other makers. Industrial space is becoming more and more scarce in the city, but Earnshaw is lucky to work close to her home.
“7 Day Dresser” is a recent piece by Earnshaw offering lots of storage with clean, classic style.
Over the last few years Earnshaw has created her “Empire” series. It has allowed her to explore the finer points of this style, and tweak it to her liking.
Quotes from Heidi Earnshaw
People often say to craftspeople “you are so lucky that you get to do what you love to do”. This is, of course, true, but it comes with many sacrifices along the way. Being a self-employed maker becomes a lifestyle as much as a career.
Canadian studio furniture makers I admire are Rob Diemart, Peter Fleming, Gord Peteran, Scott Eckert, Shawn Place, Micheal Buchanan and Brent Comber. Internationally, Khai Lieu (Australia), David Trubridge (NZ) and Tyler Hays (USA).
There are many women taking up careers as woodworkers. I teach part-time in the furniture program at Sheridan College and these days there are equal numbers of men and women among faculty and students.
I enjoy concept through construction in a timeframe that is long enough to settle into a project, but short enough to hold your interest.
The empire series of dressers and sideboards I have developed over the last few years have been engaging, and I feel like there is still a lot to explore.
It’s difficult that the public doesn’t always recognize the value of having something handmade, and the time involved in making something of quality. Nonetheless, we aren’t entitled to sell something simply because we’ve made it. It is our collective responsibility to educate our buyers and to find our place in the market.
I hope we can begin to celebrate the craft of woodworking in a way that ties us back to our roots, and celebrates how functional objects add pleasure and value to our everyday lives.