I was very fortunate to grow up in the small hamlet of Wading River on the north shore of eastern Long Island (as I found out in November, little more than a stone's throw from where Ruth Niles lived in Baiting Hollow), the oldest of 3 children to the two finest parents any children have ever known. They are, and always will be, my two personal idols. In June 1981, I graduated from Shoreham-Wading River High School where wrestling coach Joe Ferriera greatly influenced me as a young man and helped keep me on the straight and narrow. When we needed to raise money for a digital Toledo scale for our wrestling team, I learned most everything I would later need to know about business selling small SWR Wildcat trash cans. I am forever in his debt for his positive influence.
So how did I get involved in woodturning and burl importing/retailing? Like many people, I spent a lot of years trying to figure out what it was I wanted to do when I grew up. As a (younger) kid, I was briefly introduced to woodturning in Mr. Rosen's 7th/8th grade shop class, where I made a non-functional, really crude wooden fishing reel that I have to this day. My father later purchased a lathe and did some terrific spindle turning (especially after a class he took with Russ Zimmerman when he was in Putney, VT).
Parenthood, self-employment, hard work, success and failure, and the Great Recession of 2007/2008 have reinforced something I've always believed - in keeping with Frank Capra's great film of the same name - "You Can't Take it With You." I met and worked with some truly terrific people during my 20 years in the Navy, but to find something that I truly love, the success or failure of which is entirely dependent on me, that never seems like work no matter how hard I work or how many hours I put in, and be home everyday to help raise my now 13 and 8 year old boys, and earn a few dollars doing so, is truly priceless. I consider myself very blessed. Does life get any better? As the late David Nittmann told me, serendipitous indeed!
As for the woodworking/woodturning aspect of my business, my greatest inspiration, pleasure and challenge comes from working with cutoffs and seemingly non-ideal, oddly shaped or termite/ant damaged burls that few customers buy, to create a work for people to enjoy that showcases the simple natural beauty of burl, often with contrasting heartwood and sapwood, in an aesthetically pleasing form. I consider the economic challenges in the aftermath of the Great Recession to have been a blessing in that I was forced to re-think the products I offered and raw materials I used. Nine of the 11 hollow form below are from scrap/cutoffs and the Red Mallee Burl pedestal went unsold for years before I chose to use it to display my small/mini work.
So that, in a nutshell, is my story. Fortunately for me, I have a wonderful wife Seiko, who was so anxious to meet me that, in truly serendipitous fashion, she ran through my then 3 week old brick mailbox with her car in August 2002. Domo arigato gozaimashita! We married in January 2003 - in front of the mailbox she paid to rebuild - the night before I deployed to the Persian Gulf. She has been and remains unbelievably supportive of my passion as a business owner and woodturner and blessed us with two healthy, happy, wonderful sons - Charlie and Bryan. I could not do what I do without her. Aishiteru!