12 December 2011

A Portrait of The Artist: Barnwood4u

The regular followers of A Portrait of the Artist project know how much we value sustainable independent artists who recycle, upcycle and reuse. Barnwood4u is just that! The husband and wife duo Jim and Brenda offer quality rustic furniture, bookcases, frames and shelves handmade by them out of reclaimed barn wood. Each piece of reclaimed wood has unique knots, nail holes and wear. Nature and time lend a unique weathered patina to Barnwood4u's products and no 2 items can ever be exactly the same.

Jim is a stay at home dad and does the woodworking and Brenda works in Animal Welfare and is the finisher. 15 years into their marriage they decided to have a baby and since Jim's future in the wholesale construction supply business was not looking bright, the couple decided it was time to make the part time woodworking full time. What is more, Jim could stay at home and raise their beautiful daughter, Madison.

Jim and Brenda

When did you decide to take your part time woodworking to the next level?
When we decided to have a baby. We didn't want to have our child raised in daycare and my wife and I each had a full time job. My job in wholesale construction supplies was getting worse and worse due to the downturn in the construction industry. I ended up leaving earlier than planned but have absolutely loved having my baby girl as my boss.

Where do you get the wood material for your products?
Mostly friends, acquaintances and past customers. One of my first customers from over 10 years ago called one day and said: "Come, take down our barn." I also look for barns on properties that are for sale, and when I can, I talk to the owner or the new owner about reclaiming the wood. I once waited on a group of old buildings for a couple of years, driving by occasionally. Finally when they were being demolished I got a hold of the owner. Brenda did most of the work on that removal. Currently I am watching a couple of barns on a property that just went up for sale. 

Reclaimed barn wood shadow box
How long after you came up with the idea for your barnwood furniture and frames did you set up an etsy shop?
We had been doing craft shows for about 10 years and needed a break from the repetitive hauling in, setting up, and tearing down for craft shows weekend after weekend. Although it was a good network and we enjoyed the camaraderie of the crafters it was to hard keep up with.

Do you recycle in everyday life? Were you brought up by your parents to have a more sustainable lifestyle?
In our local community, we recycle card board, copper, scrap metal and aluminum. Of course we recycle our wood, the soft woods go into our shredder for mulch and some of our larger unusable pieces we give to neighbors for firewood. Appropriate odd kitchen scraps go to the chickens, dogs or compost pile. We were raised just before the serious start of recycling but our parents taught us not to waste anything. One of the ways I earned money as a child was to recycle newspapers. If I remember correctly they paid $1 a 1000 pounds, not much but it bought baseball cards!

Barn wood frame
Describe to us your creative process and the flow of ideas, how do you choose the items you are to make?
There are so many things to make out of wood, inspiration is everywhere.  A lot of our products flow from items we have already made, just expanding, changing, making larger or smaller.

A great deal of our ideas come from customers. Can you make this? Why didn't I think of that! The major creative part for me is getting a piece of wood and seeing in my mind, or just having that feeling of how beautiful it will look in a frame, shelf or table. Very hard to describe that feeling or process.

Simple barn wood wall shelf
You are a husband-wife duo, how do you inspire each other?
Brenda inspires me with her reactions when I show her a finished piece. I am always striving for that "WOW" reaction that means I have done something extraordinary. Brenda has been my sounding board for many years and I rely on her to keep me looking for new challenges. Brenda is my finisher so all my pieces go through her for the final touches and inspection so I like to think I inspire her to complete projects.

Where do you see yourself creatively in 5 years time?
To some extent my creativity is directed by the wood I reclaim. This wood is good for frames, this for furniture. A good part of the fun I have doing my work is seeing what kind of wood I get next. I am also exploring more intricate detail work to be incorporated into my furniture and would like to make larger pieces.

I would also like to give Madison an intro into creating things from wood. Maybe she will end up a metal sculptor. Madison is only 1 year old now so in 5 years I hope that she is in the shop by my side holding the pieces together or operating the nail gun! Brenda started beading while pregnant with our daughter and makes beautiful jewelry, so we are working on getting her work for sale on Etsy as well.

Which is your current favorite item by another etsy seller?
Having to choose one item from close to 9 million?  We have been into old farm building photographs, but if I have to choose one, this would be it. Would love to get it for Brenda.

Make sure you connect with Jim and Brenda: Shop | Facebook


  1. Wonderful portrait of an artist. I will be checking out their etsy shop. The items here are fantabulous!

  2. I love their shop! I stumbled about on recently when I was looking for a new shelf. :-)

  3. I love how you find the most interesitng people to feature. So much to choose from...If I had this type of living space I would for sure be getting a couple of their shelves! Are you the one doing the write of on the artists? Lovely job...really!

  4. Beautiful work! I love the look of the old barn wood. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. * pushing my spelling abilities again*
    Jim and Brenda are such an inspiring couple! I would have loved to work with wood- even more after admiring their work! Good luck to them!

  7. I love the barn wood frame. There is something so comforting about the wood.

    Another wonderful interview Sonya! Very nice to see a couple working together too! All the best to them!

  8. i love your artistry and commitment to the earth!! Nice to meet you ...continued success!

  9. I'm loving the simplicity of their frames/boxes/furniture. The weathered wood grain and knots are mesmerizing!

  10. Love the barn wood pieces!

    Blogging Buddies

  11. Amazing frames! I love the way the wood looks.