Carving out a name for herself with woodworking skills
Adrienne Smatt has always loved woodworking.
As a youngster, whenever her father, William Smatt of PriceBusters, had a carpentry project, she was there helping.
In college, she took woodworking courses.
But after college, she quickly found carpentry was still very much a man’s domain in Bermuda.
“A few years ago I saw a job advertised in the newspaper for an apprentice carpenter,” she said. “I applied for it, but they never called or acknowledged that they got my application. I don't know that it was because I am female, but it felt like that way.”
Instead, she went on to work in a range of jobs, as a videographer, a journalist, and an art studio assistant.
Two years ago she was working as a jeweller when she decided there was not enough upward mobility. She left her job to run her own calligraphy business Adrienne Smatt Designs.
For a time, things went well. In the summer of 2019, she was doing wedding and party invitations, decorating shop windows and doing the lettering for restaurant menus.
“Then winter came and I was getting ready for the Harbour Nights season,” Ms Smatt said.
The Covid-19 pandemic upended everything. Suddenly, most celebrations requiring hand lettered invitations were cancelled.
Ms Smatt had to add something else to her wheelhouse. She turned to her long held passion for woodworking.
"Looking on the internet, I saw these charcuterie boards made from whiskey and wine staves,“ she said.
Staves are the curved planks of wood used in barrels.
“I thought I could do that," she said. "It just grew from there.”
She added Bermuda cedar charcuterie boards to her line-up.
"Cedar just looks so gorgeous and smells great,“ she said. “The wood grain really pops when you put the finish on it. I use a food-safe finish so it is fine if you want to put your food directly on the board."
But she said cedar can be challenging to work with.
“It can be really soft or really hard,” she said. “If you get it too soon after it has been cut it can be damp, and crack when it dries. It is just about knowing the wood and knowing how to work with it.”
Last Christmas, she did well making customised charcuterie boards, cedar Christmas ornaments and drink coasters.
"Someone reached out to me who wanted a bespoke box for this gorgeous crystal she wanted to be an heirloom in her family,” Ms Smatt said.
She has a pyrography tool that allows her to burn designs or letters into the wood, combining her talent for calligraphy and wood working.
“I have done a lot of last names,” she said. “I had someone who was giving a gift to someone for their birthday. It was their 50th birthday and they wanted a really cute little saying: age doesn't matter unless you are wine or cheese. I am happy to do something simple for a customer, or to give my artistic advice."
Since putting up a website she has had a few people call her looking for employment.
“I’m not there yet,” she said. “But I am happy to teach people what I know.”
She is living with her parents, currently.
“I am grateful I am able to do that,” she said. “I am in a pretty great spot right now, where my overhead is pretty low. I work out of my back yard. It does pay some bills, but not all of them. I am hoping that soon it will be better. When I get a bigger space and I get a few more tools, I can be more efficient. Then, I think, we can go places.”
Tools have been some of her biggest challenges so far.
"I am working with very little,” she said. “I had a big log, probably 10 to 12 inches in diameter. I had to cut it with a handsaw to get my Christmas orders out. Christmas did go really well for me. I was super grateful for that because it enabled me to buy a band saw. Now I don't have to hand saw all the things."
She is considering what tools to buy next, but might buy a large drum sander or planer. At the moment, when she needs to plane something she has to drive to her brother's house to use his.
But overall, she would like to have her own space to work out of, with a proper work bench.
Her products will be available at the Black Pearl on Front Street in Hamilton and at Long Story Short on Water Street in St George’s.
For more information see adriennesmatt.com or check her out on Facebook and Instagram @adriennesmattdesigns