Woodworking newcomers Matt and Jessa Brantley have already made numerous statements with their eye-catching pieces.
From garnering attention of local businesses who are in search of fine quality dining furniture to being led to teach turning at a nearby craft school, the artisans have already managed to fully immerse themselves in their craft in just two short years.
The Jackson County couple aims to showcase the natural beauty of wood, allowing the wood to guide them throughout their creative process. Within this process, the artists continually aim to share their joy and passion for their creations with others.
Two years ago, Matt did not consider himself an artist but admired how striking wood could be if adapted properly. Seeing this interest, Jessa enrolled Matt in an online woodworking course taught by craftsman Cam Anderson of Blacktail Studio in Portland, Oregon.
Finding inspiration from this artist and this course, Matt became obsessed with creating furniture that showcase the distinct features of natural wood.
“The more I did it [woodworking] and the better I got, I realized this level of quality is not often found,” Matt said.
The artist’s focus is creating aesthetic works with the purpose of being used. Specializing in dining furniture, he turns slabs of dried lumber into sprawling tabletops and intricately shaped serving trays. The onset of epoxy resin uses piqued Matt’s interest. After experimenting with the substance, he now incorporates it to solidify the formations of his designs.
Prior to the couple’s woodworking career, Jessa was adept in painting lettering on wooden signs. At the same time her partner delved into crafting objects of wood; Jessa was exposed to woodturning through social media. Learning and garnering knowledge from internet sources, she immediately fell in love with creating bowls and was soon gifted her own lathe from Matt.
Jessa’s work specializes in burl wood, which results in an irregular grain or pattern in the material. She takes a philosophical approach to working with burl that she relates with life experiences.
“Most turners don’t like to work with burl because it doesn’t follow the rules and has lots of voids and bark inclusions, cracks,” Jessa said. “But, burl allows me the freedom to listen to the wood instead of listening to the world.”
The artist approaches the material with no expectations in a finished piece.
“When I started, I was trying to do what everybody else was doing…the goal was always these beautiful, perfect, repeatable, thin bowls…I got really frustrated at first and it wasn’t satisfying,” Jessa said.
Instead, she enjoys working in the moment and flowing with where the wood is taking her. Jessa considers her work geared toward aesthetic aim, stating her bowls are intended to evoke emotions, instead of utilitarian purposes.
Matt and Jessa showcase the natural beauties of wood through their work, and they strive to reclaim wood that would have otherwise gone to waste.
“One: it is better for the environment, like to not just go cutting down trees just to cut them down,” Matt said. “Two: It helps. We get to help our community.”
They detail that when someone makes them aware of a downed tree, they will offer to saw up the tree for them in exchange for creating artwork from the wood. From time to time in these situations, the artists will create works from the lumber and gift pieces of art back to the original owner.
A favorite story of the artists is an instance where they were able to rescue a piece of someone’s family history.
“This guy whose mom passed away had to sell her property because he wasn’t going to live there. He posted on Facebook ‘I’m moving, trees for sale,’” Matt noted. “So, I presented him with a better offer. Instead of selling these trees, what if I cut them down and mill you some slabs and you can build a table out of it and have this memory of your mom forever?”
The artists are proud they are currently drying a slab of black walnut for the gentleman for him to carry the memory of his family forever.
Cultivating a sense of community with others is what the artists are setting out to build with their craft. One of Jessa’s goals is to create a shared studio space where woodworkers of the local area can come together and create work.
“In doing this, I have built so many relationships with people who are skilled and knowledgeable and have so much to offer the community,” Jessa said. “I’ve also met many people who have a passion for creating, but nowhere to do it…or they can’t afford it.”
With this, she aims to make woodcraft available to everyone, no matter age or financial status. Matt finds his sense of belonging in creating connections with individuals through his creations.
“I spend so much time and really invest in a piece. Four times now I’ve seen somebody look at that same piece and say ‘yes, I have to have this,’” Matt said.
A specialty area of his is custom building, where he states customers will feed him their dreams and it is his job to make them a reality.
Through the creation of their notable pieces, Matt and Jessa Brantley have exposed many individuals to the beauty of nature that surrounds us. By way of enhancing wood’s natural characteristics instead of trying to modify it, the couple continuously garners attention to the material’s innate capacity to be crafted into strong furniture for utilitarian needs or striking vessels to be displayed on a shelf.
For these artists, they have already reached significant milestones in their two years of woodworking and have no plans to stay stagnant in this endeavor.
To contact the Brantleys, visit their website at beloveddesignswoodworking.com. You can also find them on Instagram and Facebook: Beloved Designs Woodworking.