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Eric Young has worked on a variety of wood-built projects, large and small.
His cutting/serving boards featured at General Fine Craft are thick and sturdy. He uses high quality cuts of wood, working with the growth and grain to sensitively determine the final shape. Finishing is done with non-toxic, food-safe oil.
“I own and respectfully manage a 46 acre bush lot just west of Clayton, Ont.
I selectively harvest healthy standing hardwoods and mill them to my desired thicknesses and cuts. Once they are stacked, I patiently play the waiting/drying game. Once lumber is dried out and ready for planing, I choose boards to suit the project at hand.”
Feature article for The Humm, April 2018
Eric Young: Connecting to Wood and Woodlands
By Richard Skrobecki
Wood is one of the most beautiful and widely used of naturally occurring materials on earth. Just look around your home to see how prevalent it, realize how many of its uses and applications we sometimes take for granted.
For a woodworker like Eric Young, this awareness has been with him since childhood days when he would run wild in the woods of Gatineau Park near his home in Chelsea, Quebec. A deep interest in the life of forests has influenced many aspects of his life, including a passion for making functional objects from choice pieces of wood.
He is interested in the stories that wood tells through its growth rings, burls, spalting, knots and ‘live edge’ bark. Indeed he wants his finished pieces to reflect these stories for people to appreciate the natural qualities of the material.
So when it comes to making his current line of boards and paddles for cutting or serving bread, cheese and other foods, he first reads the wood to find unique shapes that occur within the structure and grain. Using maple, cherry, oak, walnut, ash or hemlock, his board shapes are typically simplified and modern with carefully rounded edges, thoughtful handles for gripping and holes for hanging. He often laminates contrasting colours of wood together to create interesting lines and patterns before sanding all surfaces to a super-fine smoothness. Finally he finishes with a bit of mineral oil and wax, buffed to enhance and protect the wood’s natural beauty.
Being resourceful and tech-savvy, he has done custom projects for clients using laser-burning technology to etch images such as maps and text into wood surfaces. And he takes on the occasional custom furniture order, such as a recent coffee table made from a huge cross-section of 100-year old ash.
Starting a path
It has been a gradual road getting to this point as a maker. Eric acknowledges the influence of his father Brian, an avid naturalist and past head carpenter for the CBC in Ottawa who made sure his kids learned to enjoy the great outdoors. His grandfather was also a carpenter, so perhaps what innately inspires him today began as a seed planted long ago. His graphic designer wife Chrissie, friends and family have been there to help along the way.
After completing a 3-year business program at CEGEP Gatineau in 2005, Eric made the decision to move into the trades and has been working in the field ever since. He and his wife Chrissie lived a short time in Ottawa, yearning for a more rural life until they found a rental farm in Carp. As luck would have it, their neighbour Ian Campbell was an accomplished woodworker who became an encouraging mentor. Eric established the Grassroots Furniture Company in 2011, making rustic furniture from rough-sawn pine.
He was deeply inspired to learn more about trees after stumbling across Michael Henry’s book Ontario’s Old Growth Forests. This lead him to visit forests and arboretums in southern Ontario, Temagami, the central United States and the old growth forest of Gillies Grove near Arnprior, where the tallest tree in Ontario soars 150 feet into the sky. In 2016 he was on the committee board for Forests Ontario where he met people he could not only learn from, but who were interested in learning about his experiences using sustainable woodworking practices.
Building today and for the future
Now in his 30’s, Eric is able to appreciate the forest every day. In 2013, good karma lead he and Chrissie to purchase a small property with log home in the Darling area of Clayton. Soon they bought a 47-acre bush lot several miles down the road, fulfilling a dream and fuelling opportunities for the family – including their young daughter Aspen.
In 2016, he started building a small cabin on the edge of the property where a 30-foot cliff overlooks a large marsh and sprawling forest beyond. With help from his father and friends, he hauled raw materials 600 feet along a narrow path through the woods to complete this family legacy project. He humbly says that it remains a ‘work in progress’ despite the way it already fits so beautifully into the natural landscape.
On this acreage, Eric has identified 26 species of hard and softwood trees, the most abundant being Sugar Maple and Hemlock typical of Lanark County woodlands.
It’s interesting that the Lanark Stewardship Council’s report A Place In Time: The Natural Resources of Lanark County notes that forests currently cover 57.6% of lands; 90% of those lands are under private ownership. To put things in historical perspective, an 1888 survey found Lanark County had been harvested so extensively by white settlers and the logging industry that only 10-30% of lands remained forested.
So it’s good to know there is less logging today and that natural regeneration has contributed to the regrowth of forests; but vigilance is definitely necessary. The report states, “We now know trees are carbon reservoirs and that maintaining forested areas helps temper the effects of global warming.”
Eric is keen to properly manage the woodlands under his care for future generations of people and wildlife species alike. He harvests fallen trees from the bush lot to make his signature cutting boards, milling the lumber himself and drying it over time; or, as he says, “as long as nature needs to take”. Only occasionally will he carefully select and cut down a standing tree.
Getting the work out there
Eric uses social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook to promote his work and to share stories of its creation process. He also teaches cutting board courses at the Ottawa City Woodshop and regularly displays his work at the Almonte Farmers Market, General Fine Craft (Almonte) and 613 Flea (Lansdowne Park, Ottawa). You can visit his woodshop near Clayton on the annual Crown and Pumpkin Studio Tour on Thanksgiving weekends.
He’ll be featured in a new exhibition titled Finessing the Line at General Fine Craft from March 27-May 8. Opening/meet the artists on Sunday April 1, 2-4pm. See www.generalfinecraft.com for more information.
Eric Young loves to talk about trees and he loves the grassroots feeling of making connections with people who admire woodwork. It completes a circle, adding to the pride he takes in the whole process of sustainable harvesting and making objects that tell nature’s stories – bringing beautiful items into the home to use and appreciate for generations to come.
“To me, wood is perfectly imperfect. My approach is to enhance its natural qualities and to bring out
the story of its life.” -E.Young