Meet Kat Houser, the solo woodworker operating under the name Urban Smoke Signals, based in Denver, CO.
Growing up with a father in forestry, Kat has never been a stranger to wood, but she didn't start woodworking until recently as a way to relieve anxiety. She always felt grounded around trees and lumber yards as a child and felt the same soothing connection when she put her restless hands to work with wood later in life.
Her first project was intended as a gift for a dear friend transitioning from a corporate lifestyle to a soulful writing career. To make the gift as personal and meaningful as possible, she collected the wood from her friend's cabin and mountain properties.
"If you pay enough attention, you'll start to see that the wood has a story, especially when working with reclaimed wood, and if you're patient enough, it'll share it with you - and that story goes into every piece I create."
Unfortunately, her friend did not have room in her home for the special writing table so she suggested that Kat sell it.
"I once read, 'when you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.' That's where "Urban Smoke Signals" came from. It's a modern meeting place, a creation for gathering."
Kat's favorite piece that she has done so far is called "Table Wine" and was constructed of wine crate parts from 1960 to 1979, that would have otherwise been tossed, and some inexpensive DIY Furniture Store table legs.
"When I pair the metal legs with the wooden tops, I try to find something strong and unique, but something that doesn't take away from the piece itself. I want the legs to help it shine, to be an amazing accent to it."
Shipping wine by wooden crates is hardly done anymore now that cheaper and easier cardboard options are available.
"In Europe, they can still be found here and there, but it's a dying art. I wanted to preserve that somehow. So I gathered these, and set them into a tabletop, and used old cabin wood for the skirt. It's was a labor of love, for sure."
Although tables are currently Kat's favorite pieces to make, she doesn't limit herself to that medium. If she can make it with wood, she is ready and willing to try it.
"Everything I use is reclaimed or has already fallen on its own. I do my damnedest not to use lumber that has been freshly cut when it still had a long way to go. They, like us, breathe life. They are important here. It's crucial to approach the materials as well as the building with a great amount of respect."
Make sure to follow Kat and all of her woodworking endeavors on her Instagram account @UrbanSmokeSignalsDnvr. Kat's story proves that it's never too late to follow a dream or discover a new passion.
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*All photos courtesy of Kat Houser