Here’s your riddle for the day:
What is natural, renewable, sustainable, and recyclable that comes in an array of hues and densities? You can do everything from build a ship out of it to crafting a box. It rhymes with good, hood, should and could. And . . . it begins with w.
“My wife Dianne and I craft furniture and wood accessories that allow wood’s natural beauty to speak for itself,” says Ron Jackson of Walla Walla.
“The diversity of grains, color, figure and light reflectance make appealing visuals. Wood items are tactile. The warmth of wood feels good to the hand.”
Jackson, who began working with the answer to the riddle 67 years ago while in junior high school, has been involved with trees, somehow and in some way, all his life. Primarily self-taught, he credits his working at the Walla Walla Whitehouse Crawford sash, door, and cabinet shop in the early 1960s as the foundation for his knowledge of his medium. And while he hasn’t built a schooner (yet), he has designed and constructed three homes — including the couple’s “forever” home that they have lived in for 30 years — as well as filled that home with furniture and cabinetry of his own making.
Learning Woodworking by Salvaging Trees
“My woodworking education took a significant leap when, with a partner, we started a business salvaging hardwood trees,” Jackson explains.
“We milled the trees into lumber and sold the resulting lumber. We shipped the wood to users as far away as New York and Hawaii.
“The learning curve associated with the process of falling, hauling, milling and drying hardwood to successfully obtain an end product that did justice to this region’s beautiful hardwoods was substantial.
“The knowledge obtained from this process has helped me become a better woodworker.”
Now theoretically retired, Jackson spends his days in his 450 square foot shop, where he creates commissioned work for clients throughout the country. He also crafts small things — boxes, charcuterie boards, jewelry and hobby boxes — that he sells at gift stores, craft shows, and Wenaha Gallery in Dayton. Working from a stock of hardwoods primarily salvaged from trees in eastern Washington and Oregon, Jackson mixes and matches walnut, mahogany, maple, yew, Bubinga, and even something called Bloodroot and Jarra into his one of a kind, always evolving creations. He incorporates inlay, mortise and tenon, tongue and groove and other methods of blending and design, taking advantage of the different colors and textures of the wood.
Boxes and Boards for Guns and Cheese
Especially popular are his gun boxes, which stay locked until opened with a magnet, decoratively hidden within a separate wooden handle.
“Wives whose husbands own guns and keep them beside their beds especially like these,” he says. “In the middle of the night if you think you hear something, the last thing you want to do is turn on the light and fumble with a combination lock. The magnet is quiet and quick.”
Boxes of any sort fascinate Jackson. They are perfect for experimenting with new techniques and finishes on a small scale before incorporating them into larger pieces.
“I enjoy making boxes for a variety of reasons:
“They have a purpose. They take a reasonable time to make and are a great way to use special pieces of wood. The opportunity they offer to experiment with artistic ideas is great.”
And they make great gifts. Who doesn’t have small treasures that fit perfectly into a decorative box?
A Living Tree, and Then Its Wood
For Jackson, wood is a treasure of the earth that has a long and productive life: first as the tree that draws nourishment from the ground and gives back to its landscape, then, when that life is over, as a raw material transformed into items of beauty, usefulness, and artisan skill. It’s neither joke nor riddle that wood is natural, renewable, sustainable, and recyclable in a way that few materials are, and its versatility in its afterlife is limited only by the imagination and skill of the person working with it.
“In collaboration with my wife, Dianne, our work seeks to express the order and diversity of nature fused with people’s need for functional furniture and accessories,” Jackson says.
“The fascinating thing about working with wood is there’s always something else to learn.”
Contact Wenaha Gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.