Bobby and the Big Leaf Maple

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When I started my business a few years ago, I had a vision of what it would look like.  Mostly just me, in a garage, puttering away happily, making lamps one by one.   In the last year, we’ve grown to three employees, several contractors and a list of over 50 vendors that we work with on a steady basis.  In other words: still a small business, but much larger than my vision of a sole maker hammering away in the night.  The last year has really taken my breath away in how we’ve expanded and the things we’ve been able to do.  And I’ve realized that, as the business evolves and grows – so do I.  When the business gets busier and life gets more hectic, I find myself going back to the basic reasons of why I started my company.

One of them is Bobby , a woodturner I met when I was creating my first lamp prototype.  Bobby turns 90 this month and hasn’t slowed down a bit.  When I visited him earlier this month at his shop, he was wrestling a 100 lb. block of Big Leaf Maple onto his bandsaw.  A quick look around Bobby’s shop will tell you that he’s been doing anything but retiring.  Gouges are stacked up near his old pulley-driven lathe, sawdust covers the floor, and fresh piles of wood scraps creep up knee-high in some places.  As we hoist the chunk of wood up onto the bandsaw, Bobby tells me that it comes from the third largest Big Leaf Maple tree in Oregon.  “Look at this,” he says pointing to a beautiful velvet-black ribbon of spalt threading it’s way through the wood, a characteristic highly prized by turners.  “This piece really says something!”  I love that after all his years around wood, he still gets excited and shares his victories.

When I’m in Bobby’s shop, time seems to melt away, the steady hum of the lathe and the scent of sawdust are a calming balm from all my daily thoughts and worries.  Just being around Bobby teaches me the lesson I have the hardest time remembering, to slow down and enjoy life.  He moves with purpose around the floor of his shop, carrying the block of the Big Leaf with him to the jointer.  “I’ve been around this long because I love what I do!  When you love what you do, it’s not work.  There’s not a lot of people in this world that can say that.”

I turn 40 this year, less than half of Bobby’s age.  Whenever I feel like I’m straying from my true path in life, I feel lucky to know Bobby and I think of him at his lathe.  Turning Big Leaf Maple into piles of sawdust and gold.

 

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