My woodworking journey always starts with elevating the natural beauty of wood into distinctive, functional heirlooms for one’s home. I’m a stay at home dad and happy husband with a passion to create unique pieces out of beautiful, carefully selected wood. I honour the tradition of my grandfather, a French-Italian immigrant to Canada who skillfully and passionately carved his life and community out of wood. What began as motor skill rehabilitation, organically transitioned into a profession that allowed me to work at a pace that one who lives with an acquired brain injury needs to be conscious of. Thankfully, with the amazing support our community gives to hard-working local artists, I am now going into my fourth year as a woodworker with no plans of slowing down until my hands can no longer hold a tool.
My goal is to bring beauty and reverence into everyday life - through a hand carved coffee spoon for example, a butter knife, a set of family oak bowls and quality handmade furniture. You can see how people are drawn to this natural element that is grounding to the touch. From charcuterie to cutting boards, to cruisy longboards, headboards, workbenches, counters, dining tables and everything in between, there is nothing I won’t try.
I equally strive to prolong the life of the fallen tree, telling its story by showcasing its unique grain and elegant figures in my craftsmanship. In recent years, Ouiman’s Woodworking has transitioned to selectively sourcing local lumber from fallen trees in need of a second life, salvaging useful material and turning it into a lifelong story. Repurposing these fallen trees allows me to truly understand the beauty that one tree has to offer. I look at a piece of wood and see four table legs, a shelf, a bowl… most of the time, the piece of wood tells you what it wants to be, with its own figures, grains, shapes and live edges. Furthermore, you have to respect what the wood is telling you; when working with a material that moves seasonally, it is important to understand how each piece of wood is going to react to changes in its environment.
By extension, I perceive woodworking as an opportunity to honour a living being that has provided us with life. I repurpose materials and all my pieces are finished with natural products. I also carry out most of my work with hand tools and mill the wood with energy generated by my own body. Although using power tools in many cases is unavoidable, my attention goes into my use of refurbished and vintage tools that have often felt the hands of many woodworkers before me. None of the wood is wasted - scraps are turned into small bowls, carved into spoons, turned into knives and combs, with wood shavings being used as kindling, compost and garden mulch. Whatever is left keeps us warm during cold winter days.
As a woodworker, I will always remain humble to the profession and the lifelong education you get from creating one piece after another. My dream is to one day have my own store that features a woodshop where I could share the process and trial and errors of creation with our community. In closing, I can’t thank the arts family enough because of the support one gives to the next. Without the help, encouragement and support of strong makers and entrepreneurs such as Tristen Nichols (Maiden Perras) and Karey Pion (Soco Soaps), I would not be where I am today. Thank you Fernie, we hope to see you soon!
Thank you to Angelique Ouimet for jointly writing this article with James, who says she is the ‘writing talent’ in the family. Find Ouiman’s Woodworking on Facebook @ouimanswoodworking and Instagram @ouimans_woodworking.