On this episode of brave space, I chat with Al Florez, a woodworker based in Lyons, CO. We met in summer 2018 at the Boulder County Farmers Market's artisan show where Al had a booth with his then new business, Leaf Woodworking.
Al says his dad was a “tinkerer” who encouraged Al to take things apart and put them back together, and this may have set Al on his path to working creatively with his hands. Al worked for a general contractor on the east coast, and worked with renovations on Victorian homes. Later, he and his wife bought a van to travel, and Al built out the entire thing from the kitchen to the sleeping area, which he says was the largest self-guided project he had at that point in his woodworking journey.
An end table made by Al
Al tries to price products at levels that your ordinary person can afford, and we talk about how the cost of materials is a big factor in the product pricing equation. Generally, he works in domestic, sustainably harvested woods such as walnut, cherry, oak, and maple. He strives to create items that will outlast him – a sharp contrast to what we both feel is our typical “buy and dispose” society where items aren’t built to last, but rather to break and be replaced. Al shares a story about an old secretary desk in his family that houses a note from his grandmother from 1918, which describes the desk as being her grandmother’s great uncle’s possession. The secretary has now been in his family for 6 generations.
Some details of Al's work, including a twisted box joint (bottom)
When I ask Al if he has a favorite thing to make, he says it’s more about the process than the product. He talks about some of his favorite hand-processes that he enjoys and how they can inform his design process. Al shares his gratitude for Firefly Handmade, a market he was a vendor at in 2018, and TinkerMill, a community studio space in Longmont, CO, and says that they both helped kick-start Leaf into the full time job it is today. He talks about the intersection of tradition and technology in woodworking. Additionally, Al shares his opinion on what he thinks is “good design” and why.
A mini-dresser and a coatrack, handmade by Al
You can learn more about Al Florez and Leaf Woodworking on Leaf's website, Instagram, or in person at the two artisan markets listed below. Thanks again to Al for coming on the pod and for being a dedicated listener!