I found Collin Garrity while mindlessly flying through the interwebs via Instagram. His woodworking woke me up. For weeks, I ogled a beautiful necklace made up of three, hand-carved rhombi of varying woods. I eventually made it my own and knew that I had to learn more about Collin's story. If you check out his website, you'll see that his portfolio extends way beyond jewelry—he's crafted whole guitars, chess sets and beautiful conversation pieces. He sites a few influences as Bauhaus, Dadaism, and Wabi-sabi. Minimalism, simplicity, transience—you'll see these styles make a whole lot of sense when you read his story. When I asked him to answer a few questions for me via email, he constructed this:
I had a very unique childhood. My parents, both US citizens, worked for a religious non-profit, so I grew up in Belgium and Germany. We lived in a small town in the Black Forest, but Basel, Switzerland and Mulhouse, France were each no more than a 45 minute bus ride away. We had very little money, so I made many of my own toys—a bow-and-arrow set using hazelnut branches and a length of elastic that I stole out of my mom's sewing box, skateboard ramps, slingshots, grappling hooks … It was regular boy stuff, but it was my introduction to making things.
I eventually started woodworking in college. I was a freshman at Warren Wilson, and I was restless. The school has a really great work-study program, and a lot of opportunities, but I didn’t know how to get involved. I wasn’t excited about my classes, so I started building an electric guitar—I had no idea what I was doing. I spent months fumbling through the steps, and got to know the students whose work-study involved building furniture. One of them was starting a crew that focused on instrument building, so from my sophomore year onwards, I spent 15-20 hours a week woodworking—learning from books and from the experiences and mistakes of other students in the shop. Classes were important, but in the end, woodworking came first. I’d spend my college summers working on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska. When we weren't out catching fish, my friends and I lived in tents and cooked every meal over a fire. By the end of each summer, our campsite was filled with pallet tables, driftwood piles, oil-drum chairs, and crazy contraptions to keep our tents dry, and our food safe. Strangely, I think this is where I developed the resourcefulness that has informed my style of woodworking. Most of my equipment is 'hobby' quality, and I work out of my unheated garage—those limitations are part of what creates the aesthetic of my work.
After college, I moved to Savannah Georgia and got a job at a shop called The Paris Market. I have been hugely influenced by the things that I’ve learned with them, and by the ways that they’ve pushed my creativity. My girlfriend influences all of my designs as well. I'll ask her how her day was, and then I’ll bombard her with questions about whatever I’ve been working on. Otherwise, I turn to my sister and my brother-in-law for advice. They are all creative, and driven, so whenever we talk, the conversation often turns into a brainstorming session about whatever we’re interested in working on next. I've always loved working with my hands. It's satisfying to know that I’ve created something that will outlive me, and, that if someone else had made it, it would have looked a little different. There's something meditative about shaving off one chip of wood at a time, until suddenly you have something useful. The rural Luthier, Wayne Henderson (known for making guitars for the likes of Clapton), said that he basically takes a piece of wood and cuts off every piece that doesn't look like a guitar. That understatement certainly does reductive violence to the actual precision and planning that goes into an instrument, but there's some truth in the sentiment: building something with your hands is good, honest work. You either create something or you don't, and at the end of the day you sleep well.If you're looking to make one of Collin Garrity's pieces your own, you can find his Etsy shop here.