Motherhood = EfficiencyComments (0)
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 Ellen Fure Smith
As all mothers know, having young children is a job in itself. Add in a busy woodworking career and maintaining an online store, and what do you get? You get one determined and crafty lady, namely, 28-year-old Ellen Fure Smith of Bowling Green, Ohio. And coffee. Lots of coffee.
This gal knows how to use every minute of her day wisely in order to create the perfect balance between being a mom and wife, and being a woodworker.
From a grandfather clock, to benches, and children’s furniture, Ellen builds “pretty much whatever I am inspired or challenged to build.” Eight years ago as a sculpture major at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, she fell in love with woodworking on her first assignment — a giant wooden fingerprint now in the permanent collection of the Forensic Science Department at Marshall. “It wasn't until I took a furniture class a year later that I found my true passion. I have been making furniture ever since,” she shared. Ellen considers Sam Maloof to be her main influence as a woodworker in design, work ethic and love of the craft. “I often reference his biography when I have a woodworking question.”
She is also very conscious of the material she uses. “I try to use every inch of cutoffs to make things like blocks, spoons, boxes, cars, basically anything I would want in my home and think other people would enjoy also,” Ellen said. Her online store littlebarefurniture.com is the hub of her business, but she also sells her fine furniture in galleries and participates in juried art festivals in the summer. She will be one of the “Women in Woodworking” artists featured during the summer demos at the Toledo Woodcraft store.
In order to balance
motherhood and woodworking, Ellen said her secret is to keep her kids involved.
Five-year-old Jack and 2-year-old Eloise are quite at home helping mom in the
shop. “I think creativity is in their bones; my husband is also an artist. We
are always coloring, painting, sculpting and they spend a good amount of time
with me in my woodshop. My son builds sculptures from my cut-offs, helps me
glue, mark, sand, and trace, he even vacuums sometimes. I also try to do a
project with him at least once a month. This month we built toad houses for our
During the time the kids are “helping,” Ellen does her gluing, tracing and project planning. She uses her daughter’s nap time to cut, carve and sand. “I get a few hours in on the weekends when my husband is home. I find that I get more done in the few precious hours of nap time than I did in a full studio day before I had kids. Motherhood = efficiency.”
Ellen uses form and function simultaneously when designing and creating. “My children need a small table, therefore I create one that I would want to display in my living room, not hide away in the playroom downstairs. I like to create beautiful things that people can use and are proud to have in their homes. Woodworking doesn’t feel like a job; it’s a part of me and I am driven by each project.”
A King Arthur Guinevere sanding system and Holey Galahad carving discs are her two wisest purchases to help with her craft. “The sanding system is so versatile and I have used it on projects as large as a cradle and as small as building blocks. My Holey Galahad is my shop workhorse. Most of my work involves some element of carving, and there is nothing better than the Galahad,” Ellen said.
One of her favorite projects to date is a 6' tall, solid sapele grandfather clock she built in college. “No cold fasteners were used in creating it and the weight-driven German mechanical movement (purchased from the Parkersburg, West Virginia, Woodcraft store) chimes beautifully every 15 minutes. I remember the first time I heard the chimes I felt such a sense of accomplishment,” she recalled.
Another favorite is the plywood chair she made for her son. “The chair is laminated plywood, carved and shaped to fit his sweet little self. I have made several of these chairs for customers but knowing his chair could be used by his children someday means the world to me,” Ellen said.
Motherhood is an important part of Ellen’s journey as a woodworker and artist. Her dream is to keep making furniture and to teach her children to work with their hands. “I guess my dream project would be creating hardworking, creative children with the knowledge to create the things they may need or want,” she reflected.
Combining making and
motherhood is a daily juggling act for this young mom. But she’s clearly talented
enough to catch every ball she throws in the air. Watch this quick clip to get
a glimpse into a day in her life as a woodworker.
Happy Mother's Day, Ellen Fure Smith!
Read about more woodworking moms in this series:
We hope you'll be inspired!
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