Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jeff Knight
The moment I saw Jeff Knight’s Nimbus Cloud Serving Board in our Woodworking Design Challenge I started rooting for it. I love the combination of sturdy, yet beautiful, hard maple and the whimsical cloud shape of the board–and the little raindrop serving trays are the perfect finishing touch to make this simultaneously playful and functional piece truly uncommon. When I found out that Jeff is from my hometown, I crossed my fingers a little harder, even though I was pretty confident our voting community would make sure the design made it to the final round. In the end, our community and our judges agreed with me that this wooden work of art was perfect for our assortment.
Since I happened to be planning a trip back home to Fargo, North Dakota, I HAD to jump on the opportunity to see where this winning design was born. Upon my arrival Jeff, in true Midwestern fashion, graciously welcomed me into his wood shop, offered up coffee, and gave me a tour of a beautifully sawdusty space called DIY Wood Studio, a shared woodworking environment filled will tools of all sizes, projects in the works, and a lot of inspiration.
What are your most essential tools?
A trued table saw, wood glue and pipe clamps…lots of pipe clamps!
Where do you find inspiration within this space?
Inspiration strikes from the social atmosphere of the space. You never know when someone else has a suggestion or way of doing something that will inspire you to try another approach. By being around others in the studio, it adds an energy that isn’t there when you’re alone. While solitary time is sometimes necessary, I like being around others who are having fun and working through unique projects of their own.
Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
My down time is the time I spend at the studio. I work all day (and sometimes all night) as a graphic designer, so when I need to relax and collect my thoughts, I’ll head to the studio and work through a project that is more hands-on and visceral.
How do you set goals for yourself?
I make lists. I keep ongoing lists for short and long term goals that I usually have with me all the time. I always carry a Field Notes booklet to write things down or sketch out ideas.
Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
Collaboration is necessary to find better ways of doing something. With woodworking it seems there’s always numerous ways of accomplishing the same goal, but if you allow yourself to learn from others, you grow as a maker and find new ways to solve problems.
How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
I definitely don’t celebrate them enough. I usually move from one project right into the next project with little time for celebrating the victories along the way. Usually they’re smaller victories that I’ll celebrate internally, like solving a problem I’ve worked on all day or getting the result just the way I see it in my head.
What quote keeps you motivated?
“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star” – Friedrich Nietzsche. It’s been my experience that there’s always a bit of chaos that needs to happen before something really astounding happens. From chaos, comes something remarkable.
How do you recharge your creativity?
I get recharged by allowing my mind to be open to new things and having my eyes and ears open to the world. I look to many things for inspiration; nature, comic books, toys, games, classic films, art, design, social events, friends, family, etc. I helped start a design group with friends, DSGNX, to get designers together and have the ability to be inspired and celebrate design. This group has definitely helped keep my creativity charged.
What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Be persistent–Just make, do, and be happy. Don’t succumb to the fear of failure, because really, there is no such thing.