Camosun College Alumna Carves out a Successful Career from Her Passion for Woodworking
Roshaan Ganief's business MokaJade Designs features lovingly-crafted and stylish wood products for the home and the office. "The only thing I don't make is furniture," she says "but I'm a fine woodworker and in my business I basically make lots of things that people haven't seen before, such as women's jewelry, men's accessories and magnet boards all out of wood."
Ganief grew up in Cape Town, South Africa and immigrated to Canada as a teenager. For her undergraduate degree, she studied Fine Arts at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey. She enrolled in a sculpture class and really found her groove with woodworking. "They had a bunch of advanced woodworking tools and they intimated me to no end," she says. "But I was determined to learn how to use those tools and I got to play with some wood and in the end I made something out of it. I felt so impressed and that's where I got my passion from."
She started her own business but felt that she lacked the necessary skills to grow it sufficiently. "I've always had a passion for making things, ever since childhood when I made things with my hands," she says. "I knew that I wanted woodworking as a career path and that I needed to gain the confidence and the technical knowledge to get my business off the ground."
After researching education options, she enrolled in Camosun's unique 10-month Fine Furniture program in 2009. "It was the best decision that I ever made," she says. "I loved the opportunity to live in Victoria where the pace of life is slower than the Mainland."
Arriving for class on the first day, she wasn't sure what to expect, given her previous experience. "At the beginning I wasn't sure what they could teach me," she says. "But I was sorely mistaken. Every day I learned more and more. I learned to work smarter and not harder, which was the downfall in my last business. It's a process, take it step by step and don't rush it and treat a problem as a learning experience."
Before her program started, her work on Etsy had attracted the attention of a publishing house in Pennsylvania, who wanted her to write a book on scroll sawing. "The timing couldn't have been better," she says. "I was just starting classes at Camosun, but they were willing to give me an extension. After I graduated, I started writing the book full-time, and I had so much more to say after my program. Everything just fell into place and I couldn't have been happier."
Her book, entitled, Simply Wood: 40 Stylish and Easy-to-make Projects for the Modern Woodworker was a hit with nearly unanimous praise on Amazon.
For Camosun's Fine Furniture program 30th anniversary exhibition this summer, Ganief is preparing a special chair which will be featured at UVic's Legacy Art Gallery along with other alumni work. "I'm using materials reclaimed from a wholesale flower auction in Burnaby," she says. "I started sketching ideas and I decided to focus on the profile of the chair as it was the most appealing to the eye." The result? An innovate design made out of distinctive red oak. "I used multiple coats of a hand-rubbed Danish oil finish to bring out the luster and richness of the reclaimed wood."
Roshaan often meets people who ask her about her Camosun experience. Her advice to potential fine furniture students? "Just do it," she says enthusiastically. "I keep telling everybody who shows a little bit of interest in woodworking about this program. I would do it over again if I could."