An interview with Vanessa Jackson – newest Junction Workshop instructor and master crafter

"I want to be involved in that moment of trying something new and falling in love with it." 



Vanessa is Junction Workshop’s newest instructor. She’ll be teaching the hot pipe mobile class, where students can design their own mobile using thin slices of wood they’ve bent themselves using a hot pipe and a propane torch (!).

Before Vanessa decided to train to become a cabinet maker, she had never worked with wood before. It was 2010, she was bored of working a serving job and wanted to go back to school for something more hands on. Humber’s one-year cabinet making program appealed to her, it was only one year and she figured that even if she didn’t come out of it a full-fledged cabinet maker, she would at least be a much handier human. 

At Humber, she not only fell in love with wood, but with making in general and using tools. Wood was her gateway material, from there she got into metal and started welding, and then concrete and cement, sculpting, textiles, plasters, mosaics, macramé…the list goes on. 

Eight years later and Vanessa’s a bona fide furniture designer, woodworker, and maker. Working in the industry as a designer and fabricator for commissioned designs she has now gone back to school to do a Master’s of Design at OCAD. 

I spoke to Vanessa about what she loves about wood, her favourite piece, and what she would be if she wasn’t a designer/woodworker/everything maker. 

After working as a successful furniture designer, what made you decide to go back to school?

I want to become an instructor and for that I need a master’s degree. I really enjoy teaching. I’ve taught classes before at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, I’ve taught workshops at OCAD, and it’s just something that I realized I want to continue doing. I really fell in love when I first started to make stuff and that whole process is just so incredibly satisfying and gratifying and magical. So, I want to be involved in that process for other people, for that moment of trying something new and falling in love with it. 

You’ve worked with a lot of materials, what’s your favourite?  

I really enjoy wood a lot. That’s where I started. Any physical material attracts me, but wood is just so special because trees are such magnificent beings. Wood can feel alive. Especially when you’re creating something, you spend a lot of time with the materials, with wood you can really feel a presence and understanding that you’re giving it a second life. 

What’s your favourite piece that you’ve made?

I made a wardrobe [photo below] while I was studying furniture design at Sheridan. It was for our cabinet class and my inspiration was my grandma’s old steam trunk from the 1900s. I got this old vintage wall paper and I lined the inside of it, and I made the hardware for it myself. It was my first experience working with metal. There’s just something nice about the piece. It’s on casters and there’s a latch, and when you open it up there’s a nice reveal to it, a certain drama. It also just reminds me of my grandmother. 

One of the greatest things about Junction Workshop is that it brings together people who have very different jobs/careers. If you weren’t a woodworker what would you be?

I would probably be a herbologist. When I was deciding what I wanted to get into and study again I was toying between herbology and woodworking. If I didn’t do the cabinet course I probably would have moved out of the city and into the forest and become a herbologist. 

I like the sense of magic that’s involved in it, just the idea that these plants can help heal us and we can cultivate them and the science of that. I still dabble a bit as much as I can, it’s harder living in the city. I make some tinctures but I never really delved into it 100%. It’s something that I’d like to get into again when I’m older and have more time. 

Her name is Esmeralda. 

Her name is Esmeralda. 

She is quite dramatic. 

She is quite dramatic.