North Island College Joinery Graduate Tours Summer Arts Circuit with Fine Furniture

Amy Dugas will take her woodworking business on the road this summer, touring some of the Island’s top fine art festivals and shows.

The NIC joinery graduate spent the last year creating unique fine furniture and launching her business, Heathen Wood Design in Campbell River, after graduating from NIC’s Joinery/Cabinetmaking program in 2017.

“I was looking for something more creative,” she said. “I started with basket weaving, which was fun, but I’ve always been interested in woodworking. I had a friend who had done the joinery program and highly recommended it.”

For Dugas, the start of the program, which focuses on working with hand tools, was one of its best parts.

“It was challenging to get to the level of precision you need with hand tools,” said Dugas. “It was humbling and daunting at first, but it prepares you to do the work no matter what equipment you have.”

The focus on hand tools also reinforced one of the most important aspects of joinery – patience. “You have to go slow and work with care,” said Dugas. “It’s easy to move too quickly and make a mistake or cut too much. It also takes you back to the history of cabinetry and joinery and reminds you what you’re doing really is a craft.”

Through the one-year program, students progress to using the industrial machinery available in the NIC shop while refining the level of precision they are required to achieve on each project.

“When we first started, our instructor Stephen (McIntosh) said he’d give us up to two millimetres of wiggle room,” said Dugas. “By the end, you have to hit no more than one millimetre. There’s no room for error, no gaps in the joints. At the beginning I thought it was unachievable, but through the progress of the program you get there.”

When she started the program, Dugas never expected to be setting up her own shop at the end. “I always thought I’d apply to a company and do cabinetry, but then I started making this really lovely table and got to thinking, why not give it a try? My partner was very supportive and it allowed me to focus on designing and building.”

Dugas recommends the program to anyone interested in working with wood. “The program teaches you to understand wood, how to work with it and the tools to create unique pieces.”

Dugas has found she enjoys focusing on mixed media for many of her projects, combining woods with other materials such as leather and canvas in her small shop in Campbell River.

To see more of Dugas’ work, visit her website or visit her at the juried Sooke Fine Arts Show July 27 – Aug 6 and the Integrate Arts Festival in Victoria, Aug 24 – 26.

Learn more about NIC’s Joinery/Cabinetmaking program.