Featured Artist of the Week: Nick Allinson
Name: Nick Allinson
Nick Allinson recently became a full-time woodworking artisan. Having previously worked as a display artist for Urban Outfitters, Allinson decided it was time to make his on-the-side work his full-time job. He says art was always his strong suit in school, and as a kid he was always more into legos than video games. When he attended the Ontario College of Art and Design, his intentions were more towards painting and drawing, but he learned woodworking and sculpture were really his specialty. Now, Allison sells his work in multiple locations in and around Kingston, such as at The Kingston Collective – where he also holds workshops on making charcuterie boards and spoon carving.
How did you originally get into your craft?
I would say through woodworking courses through OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design). That’s when I learned how to do better woodworking than the kind of stuff I would do with friends or dad.
How long have you been doing it?
Probably since the second year of OCAD, so… 8 years.
What artists inspire you?
I like Richard Sarah in terms of fine art.
What is your creative process?
Find wood and cut it up and make it look good… It almost is that simple. I go to the mill and I
hand pick pieces of wood that I know are going to be quality and beautiful – because sometimes you can get a really beautiful piece of wood but it’s really no good for the kind of stuff I make. And I bring the wood home and then I spend some time looking at it, measuring it. Sort of like, avoiding fault or problems in the wood. And then start the long process of finishing it. So plaining it, sanding it, cleaning off the edges and stuff like that. And then eventually oiling it, waxing it, sending it out.
Describe what your workspace looks like.
My workspace is a little 10 by 10 workshop at the back of my house. It’s a separate building. It basically looks like plywood inside with wood all over the place and tools and sandpaper and dust. But it’s cool. It’s got two little windows, flower boxes, it’s sort of right in the middle of my garden, so when I’m sick of sanding something or working on something and I need to take a break I can go outside and garden.
What part of your style makes you stand out as an artist?
My stuff that I make is sort of in like a grey zone between rustic and modern. So it’s not like a rustic, up-cycled barn board, but it’s also not like a fine-tuned, clean, modern board that’s sort of minimal and plain. It kind of takes a little bit of both sides of that story. I leave as much of the natural detail in the wood as possible, but I also clean it up so it’s not rough or overly rustic looking. Sort of for the person who’s sick of barn-board stuff, but doesn’t yet want a perfectly plain square piece of wood.
Do you have a favourite piece you’ve made?
Yes, there’s a 12-foot table that I made. There’s pictures of it on my website. And it is probably one of my favourite pieces… The table was really beautiful. It’s a walnut table with a steel base and these really nice steel inlays.
What is the best part about doing what you do?
Working for myself and building stuff exactly the way I want to build it and being able to say no to projects and also sort of, like, working with clients who really trust your design vision and your ability to build whatever it is that they want you to make.
What is the most challenging?
Probably having to wear all the different hats of running your own business: so being in charge of sales, and marketing, and production, and delivery and everything. It’s tough sometimes to do it all, but you basically just have to figure it out.
What is something people don’t realize about what you do?
Everything I do is customizable and I am extremely open to ideas or questions or concepts. And everything I make, it doesn’t have to be live edge. I pretty much know how to use a huge variety of materials and can make just about any type of furniture or house-ware.
What do you want people to take away from your work?
I think a lot of people take away a sense of having something made by a local craftsman that has a bit of a story behind it and isn't from a box store. And will last longer because it has that sort of local story attached to it, it’s that much more important so they’re more likely to take care of it.