A Day in the Life of a Woodworker
I’m Laura Wagner and I am an artist, maker, and puppy cuddler (it’s an official title). I decided to do this particular feature to show all the CYL readers that living and working as an artist can look SO different from person to person, and from day to day. I have three jobs—4 if separate the business dealings from the actual art-making, so my days can look vastly different from one to the next. Some days I am a preparator for a museum all day to come home to do office work for my art business. Other days I’m in the studio for a couple hours before becoming a wood shop instructor until 10pm. My favorite days, like today, I get to be an artist all day long, and create work to my heart’s content:
6:30-7:00am \\ I usually wake up around this time most days, depending on what I’m doing for the day. The first thing I do before anything else, is take the dogs (my boyfriend Kevin and I have the two sweetest german shepard mixed gals) out for their morning potty session. It’s an unglamorous start to the day, but getting some fresh air and sunlight first thing ain’t something to complain about! This is always followed up with watering the plants and a hot cup of tea…even when it’s 90 degrees out (which happens a lot in LA!). Side note: I gave up drinking coffee back in March and boy, will I tell you it’s made quite the difference in my mood, energy levels, and anxiety. I recommend anyone suffering from anxiety (or not) to give it a try, it really has improves things quite a bit :)
7:00-8:00am\\ Today, I am not working either of my job-jobs so I’m having a leisurely morning at home before I head over to my studio. I like to eat a quick breakfast and sip my tea from a handmade mug—something that is so important to me is being surrounded in my home by the creations of other artists—and catch up on the news first thing on quiet mornings like this, and maybe listen to a podcast (have you listened to My Favorite Murder?? It’s hilarious).
8:00-9:00am\\ I’m one of those strange people who has a really hard time completing tasks if I haven’t started working by mid-morning, so I like to get to my studio (which happens to be my dad’s garage) before 9am. There’s something gentle about morning light that inspires me to create. I should also mention that getting there early gives me a chance first thing to play and cuddle with my golden retriever Penny, who lives with my dad (did I mention I love dogs?)
9:00am-4:00pm\\ My average studio day is probably fairly short in comparison to most artists. Because I’m working with loud machinery cutting up wood, standing on concrete for hours on end, and carving all day with my hands, I’ve found that 6-7 hours of studio work is what I can reasonably handle without feeling any encroaching burnout—basically, self-care.
While I am eternally grateful to my dad for giving me space (for free!) to create, I always miss having a friend in the studio. For many years, I always shared shop space with others, and it was something I didn’t realize I loved or needed, until I was alone! I’m hoping someday to create a space where friends, and particularly women, can come together and create in a supportive and collaborative environment, where we can learn from and help each other out…just like CYL has done! Until then, this garage is
Something I find so interesting and inspring about being an artist is hearing other artists describe their work processes, like in this series, A Day in the Life. One thing I’ve heard a lot is how much love goes into every piece, and while that resonates with me a lot, for me, so many other emotions go into it too—anger, depression, frustration, rage, sadness, contentedness, peace, etc. I can’t tell you how many pieces have been cried over, talked to, yelled at, or smiled at. Being an artist is about releasing all my energy, including the bad stuff! So while love is a big part of it, so is my every emotion—plainly, my work is a part of me, all of me.
My shop philosophy can be summed up in one word—appreciation. I’ve been a woodworker for several years now, but it wasn’t until a few years ago, while I was living in the woods in Vermont, that I really developed my own sense of appreciation for trees and wood as a material, and, most importantly, how best to utilize that appreciation in my work. Nowadays, my process is completely encompassed by this notion of respect for the material—I use every little scrap in my shop, and even purchase small quantities leftover from commercial shops, and thus have very little waste. Not only does this cut down on consumption, but it aids in my goal of showcasing the beauty of the wood. For example, my round boards are all made to fit the size of the board. I dont have set sizes for my products, as a 9” in wide plank would leave too much scrap if I committed to making only 8” rounds. Thusly, I make my boards and rounds the width of the plank I buy. The same goes for my candle holders. As you could imagine, cutting rounds out of a rectangular plank would create several small triangular pieces as scrap. I remedied this by turning them into candle holders. The idea of utilizing as much of the wood as possible feels like I am showing my deepest respect for the material—it will all be used, appreciated, and admired by customers for years to come.
4:00pm-6:00pm\\ I usually start wrapping things up around 3-3:30pm to head home for the rest of the day. Once I get back home (which luckily is only about 20 minutes from my dad’s), I unload any finished work from the day, and take Sydney and Elsa out for their afternoon break. The rest of my afternoons are usually dedicated to a beer (or two), office work, and spoon carving on the patio.
6:00-11:00pm\\ Kevin and I hang out and make dinner, watch some shows (his favorite is WWE, and I love trashy reality shows aka anything on Bravo!), or we’ll play a board game—we have a HUGE collection. We then take the girls out for their last long walk, and finish up the night probably watching a scary movie.