Designed to Create

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Original Post Date: May 11, 2017

As part of our Mother’s Day series, we will introduce you to several superstar moms (and grandmothers!) who combine their love of family with their love of woodworking.

Meet Kelly Parkhurst

Kelly Parkhurst of Sylvania, Ohio, compares sawing up a tree to a treasure hunt. While working in her dad’s sawmill operation, Kelly said she loves finding curly maple or walnut and especially burls, which she uses for turning bowls and bracelets. The business cuts lumber from tree service and excavation companies to order, and then dries it in one of three kilns on-site.

 Before he owned the sawmill, Kelly’s dad was a carpenter who built their family home when she was 3 years old. He also worked as an insurance appraiser for homeowners with fire claims. The first refinishing job Kelly worked on was at age 15 when her dad brought home a smoke-damaged dresser. Kelly restored the solid wood dresser and she still owns it today.

After studying graphic design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, she then completed two years of AmeriCorps service, where she fell in love with the idea of building and creating after working on a Habitat for Humanity home. When she returned home, she worked for her uncle at his cabinet shop. “I studied interior design, but the recession hit and I decided I needed to be more practical,” she recalled.

A little later, Kelly began working at the Toledo Woodcraft store. “I learned so much working there! I learned how to turn, how to cut dovetails by hand, how to work with veneer, honed my teaching skills, etc. I probably did more reading up on different skill sets just looking up answers for customers than at any other point in my career.” 

Now a mother to four-year-old Penny, Kelly said her woodworking interests vary from designing and building furniture, cabinetry, boxes, signs and toys, to turning bowls, bangle bracelets and rings. She also likes to lay and finish hardwood flooring.

When Kelly is at home, being a mom and a wife tends to come first. But her husband golfs occasionally so they trade hobby time. “Hey, you got eight hours of golf time this week. I get eight hours of shop time (insert evil laughter),” she teases.  She considers herself lucky that her father is her boss. “I can work on my projects in his shop or at home when I have an order I need to fill. He is pretty understanding.”

Kelly said she loves to design as a need arises, such as finding storage solutions or better use for spaces in her home. “I frequent garage and estate sales looking for furniture/components I can repurpose. I am currently in the process of reworking some old school desks into end tables and/or an entertainment center,” she said. But mostly it’s her own curiosity that fuels her ambition. “Once I have an idea, I run after it feverishly. I recently was reading about ‘cerused oak’ and had no idea what that meant so I googled it. I had never tried this finishing method and I thought it looked really cool, so I immediately started thinking about incorporating it into my next project.”

Little Penny loves to help her mom in the shop. “I keep all my little wood scraps in a big box. I give her a Dixie cup of Elmer’s glue and a paint brush, and she makes the most wonderful little houses with them. She also loves to paint with me,” Kelly remarked. One of her favorite projects was creating a play kitchen for Penny out of repurposed furniture. “I was cruising Pinterest (oh yea, I get inspiration from there, too!) and I immediately went out and found a bookshelf and made a little play kitchen for her. It took me about a week. That project was so fun and cost about $75 to make.” 

Kelly and her father-in-law have teamed up on occasion to make kids’ toys. “His dad was a woodworker, and we inherited six boxes full of patterns, templates, woodworking supplies, and projects in random stages of completion. Every now and then we pick one of his old toy projects and try to recreate it in multiples for the grandkids, nieces and nephews. Last year we did dog pull-toys. This year it was a toy barn.”

Kelly lists some of her smaller items like bangles, cuff bracelets, rings and bowls for sale on her Etsy shop “kellysparkles” and she occasionally does art shows and custom orders she receives through word of mouth or social media. She makes a lot of gifts for others with her talents as well. 

Some of Kelly's creations

One of the best pieces of advice Kelly received was from her grandmother, who also happened to be her art teacher in high school. “She used to always get on my case for not signing my work. With woodworking, if you just sign your work with a pen or marker, the finish you put on may smear your signature,” Kelly shared. “So I designed my own logo and had a craftsman 3D print it into a metal plate that fits on the end of a woodburning pen. So now I can sign my work!” 

When asked what her dream project would be, Kelly said she has a thing for treehouses. “Pete Nelson came out with a book back in 2004 called Treehouses of the World. It’s a fantastic book. When I heard that he was getting his own reality show on Animal Planet I was so geeked!” She recently heard that they are coming to build a treehouse village in a Metropark near her hometown. “I would love to work with them!”

With talent galore, Kelly could very well have her own TV show someday. Happy Mother’s Day, Kelly Parkhurst!


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