Chattanooga craftsman Jason Smith discusses his love of woodwork and the lessons it can teach.
Of all of the art forms, wood crafting is one of the most overlooked. Every day we take for granted the seemingly minute details of the rungs on our favorite chair, or the intricate paneling on the doorway of our homes, and just about every other piece of furniture we own. One local who does recognize the craftsmanship that goes into making these works of art is Jason Smith of Knotty Woodcraft. After 25 years as a chef, Jason found himself unsatisfied with his work and left it. Jason said this was a scary time for him as he wasn’t quite sure where he was going to go with his life. It was during this time that he happened to need a new entertainment center for his home. Instead of going out and buying one, he decided to build his own. He immediately fell in love with woodwork and the sense of solidarity and comfort it brought him.
The idea of woodwork conjures harsh images - saw blades whirring, the loud splitting of two-by-fours, sawdust flying everywhere. At first look, there doesn’t seem to be much thought being put into it. That could not be further from the truth though.
Creating quality products from wood takes a considerable amount of time and precision. So many factors have to be considered and the slightest incorrect measurement can ruin a project. Jason believes that there is a special relationship between the maker and the medium during woodwork. To him, woodcraft is an opportunity to learn, as many of the skills it teaches can be easily adapted into one’s life. Woodcraft teaches the maker to slow down and take their time with things, to create dramatic effects through small changes, that mistakes will happen and to move on from them. Most importantly, it teaches that things will always change, just as the wood does under the maker’s hand. “It really hit me at a time in my life where so much was changing in and around me,” Jason said. “To see these lessons in woodworking and suddenly see how I could apply these lessons to my life was transformative.”
Jason said that one of his favorite things about woodworking is the challenge it brings. One of his mantras is, “I’ll figure it out,” and that’s definitely been seen with some of the projects he’s taken on over the years. One project that stood out to Jason was the installation of a read oak Dutch door. The entry unit became a massive project, weighing almost 500 pounds when it was completed, and it only seemed to become bigger and bigger as Jason worked. In the end, Jason felt a sense of pride and was overjoyed at what he had accomplished.
Jason hopes that within the next two years, Knotty Woodcraft will have its own shop with several employees. His long term goal is to have one part of the business purely focused on producing custom doors for customers so he will have more time to focus on community and charity projects. Jason’s craft has taken him on an amazing, introspective journey, and his work shines bright because of it. While woodcraft may not get the same attention as other art forms, it still has the ability to change lives and foster free expression. To keep up with Jason’s work, make sure to follow his Instagram @knotty_woodcraft.