Next up in our Meet the Maker series, we have a 5th generation (!) “Austinite” from the woodworking world. Meet Brian Johnson, the owner of BDJ Craftworks. Brian has been building custom furniture and cabinetry for years and recently launched a collection of stylish home goods (think vases, frames, and planters). His one-of-a-kind, handcrafted pieces are absolutely stunning. We’re especially digging his gorgeous succulent planter.
And guess what? BDJ Craftworks will be joining us in Austin at Re:Make on May 3rd and 4th! The event will feature innovative goods and products from tons of makers across the country. Each maker has been hand-picked by the folks here at Brit + Co., and we hope you’ll love them as much as we do. Be sure to register for FREE here. It’s an event you won’t want to miss. Pinky promise. Alright, ready to hear more from Brian? Here’s his story.
First thing first, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I’m a proud 5th generation Austinite who opened up my own workshop in the 2002 after years of study with other craftsman. I have designed and built many custom pieces of furniture and cabinet installations.
Why did you decide to start BDJ Craftworks?
After years of participating in the popular East Austin Studio Tour, during the fall of 2009 I decided to do more than just exhibit my custom furniture commissions. I made a small run of wood vases with glass liners. It was an idea I had in the back of my mind for a long time. It was successful and I fell in love with smaller production designs. As of last summer, I have begun turning away furniture commissions and focusing strictly on my production designs based around a number of different home decor pieces including vases, trays, planters, photo frames and more.
In five words or less, tell us why you love to make.
To curiously explore form/function.
How do you choose different projects that you try? Where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from artistic influences as well as from things I personally like and find useful. I originally began my glass lined flower vase because I wanted a solid wood vase that you could actually put water in. That led to my glassline planters. I also happen to love fresh flowers. I think I like to celebrate the special and to be present for the beauty of small things in life and that comes through in my work. Oftentimes, it is the material itself which is inspiring and will prompt my designs.
What does the making process look like for you?
At its core, the process of making for me is about curiosity and the excitement of possibility. I’m curious about how something I have in my mind’s eye will turn out if I take the time to build it in reality. I have a vision for something and that vision has a strong aesthetic component of what it will look and feel like. Having it take shape from raw materials, though sometimes difficult and fraught with problem solving, is typically a fulfilling process and there are always these little surprises which I wasn’t expecting about how it looks in small and sometimes larger ways.
What’s your favorite thing about woodworking?
More and more, I am trying to produce my designs in larger batches. Homever, each piece is completely unique because of the grain patterns and resin inlay, which I love.
What other creative hobbies do you have?
My podcast “Craft Works Dialogue” is my biggest hobby or pet project. I record and produce in depth, authentic conversations with other creatives about their work and their lives. Check it out on iTunes. I also love to cook.
What’s one piece of advice you’d share with other makers?
The path of an independent designer/ craftsperson is not for the faint of heart and can sometimes be incredibly difficult. But like anything that is hard, it has some huge pay-offs and you learn a ton about yourself in the process. The road to sustainable prosperity and security can be a long one, but in the meantime I have found the the quality of life that following my own passion has brought is completely worth it. In addition, I’ve developed a sense of faith that I will be supported in my journey as an artist and self-employed creative. Also, being present and grateful for what I have instead of always focusing on where I want to be is extremely important and paradoxically the best way for me to reach my goals.
Tell us how technology has changed and supported what you do.
Though the majority of my process involves fabrication with hand held power tools including all the inlaid resin work, the center scoop of my tray designs well as pinch bowls is done via CNC router.
What’s up next for you?
I’m exploring a wood jewelry line and continuing to grow BDJ Craftworks and develop my online sales.
Have you fallen in love with Brian yet? Then don’t forget that Brian will be joining us at Re:Make Austin on May 3rd and 4th. Stop by Palmer Events Center from 11am-6pm to check out his work!