I come from a family of men who value working with their hands. My dad works in agriculture. During my childhood, our family raised livestock. And both of my grandfathers were lifelong farmers. Initially, I pursued a different path. After graduating from a small rural high school, I studied marketing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and, eventually, took my first job in sales.
But a few months later, while looking for a dining table for my wife, Kate, and I’s first apartment, I found myself disappointed at the options. Kate was in medical school and we were on a tight budget. I wanted something that was quality—particle board was out of the question—but everything I found was expensive and unremarkable. I knew what I wanted, but I couldn’t find anything that matched my vision. So, I decided my best option was making one myself.
Growing up, I had learned basic woodworking skills from my grandfather. When I was 13, he taught me a few techniques to create a corner shelf for my 4-H project. I loved the feeling of crafting something one-of-a-kind by hand, and when I finally saw it at the county fair, I was so impressed that I had been able to make it myself. That was the first of many projects for my grandfather and I, and I cherish those memories.
Building the table was a big project, but I enjoyed every part. I bought the tools and carefully chose a wood that was beautiful and could withstand everyday use. Then, I sketched a design and got to work. My favorite part was seeing the look on Kate’s face when I was finished. Her enthusiasm for my hobby encouraged me to create more pieces for our home—bookshelves, coffee tables, desks. Eventually, our apartment was transformed into the home we had imagined. Gradually, family and friends began requesting pieces for their own homes, and soon I was spending nearly all of my time after work and on weekends crafting custom furniture. Eventually, we bought our first home and I was able to create a workshop, giving me even more opportunities to take on bigger projects.
In the spring of 2017, after nearly four years of pursuing woodworking on the side, I had an opportunity to devote myself to it full-time. I never imagined that I would be able to make this hobby my profession, but I am so grateful and blessed to have the ability to pursue this passion. And I’m inspired every day by my clients as I meet with them about turning their projects from dreams into reality.
-Jake Pratt, Designer/Maker