Sunday, December 27, 2015

Doing Something She Loves

By Brigid Morrissey

Through woodworking, Myra has the benefit of creating beautiful pieces while using her time constructively.

Myra Holloway was surprised to find that her passion for woodworking aligned with the philosophy of a craft movement that began in the 1800s.

In college, Myra started as a physics major but was intrigued by the art classes offered by her small liberal arts school in Minnesota. One of the classes she chose was a furniture woodworking class. It was through this class that Myra learned about the Arts and Crafts movement, which began in 1825 and was based on the idea that in order to save society from moral corruption, people had to get back to doing things with their hands.

Myra didn't let the male-dominated industry block her endeavors. 

“I really liked this idea as a woodworker that we’ve gotten too far away from being able to do things for ourselves. I was inspired about it,” says Myra, 40. Applying her knowledge of historical context along with her love and connection with people into her woodworking has allowed her to live the head, heart, and hands philosophy. This idea that time should be devoted to enriching your mind, cohorting with your peers, and laboring with your hands, whether it be quilting a blanket or weaving a basket, embodies Myra’s work and is vital in her artistic process. According to Myra, her parents taught her to do what she loves and to find a way to use that passion in her job. That, along with the Arts and Crafts movement, influenced her decision to become an art major and pursue woodworking.

She uses her Stanley block plane to do detail work on furniture repairs. 

Myra says she was unfazed by the idea of woodworking as a man’s craft. Some of her first jobs involved remarks about women being incompetent for the task. Instead of letting the comments deter her, Myra saw it as an opportunity to show that women are stronger than they appear.

Myra not only restores pieces but strives to maintain the integrity of the furniture. So, it’s not just a beat-up chair or a dresser that’s seen better days. “The most rewarding woodworking jobs I’ve had are ones where I know I’ve made something close to someone’s heart,” Myra says. “I’m a very empathetic person, and I thrive on the bonds that I create with clients.”

Myra has been able to showcase her work in the community.  

These days, Myra mostly refurbishes pieces of furniture for the benefit of individual households. Some of Myra’s more public works include fabrication and maintenance of exhibits on the Bourbon Trail, restoration on the Baxter Avenue Theatres, and installation of the Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial in Indianapolis.

Myra recently became an occupational therapist and discovered that occupational therapy grew out of the Arts and Crafts movement. “I was like, ‘Oh, I’m meant to do this. This fits in with the whole stream of my life and existence,’” she says.

Some of Myra's projects include this Elija Craig tantalus made for the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center showroom. It is quarter-sawn white oak with walnut and satinwood inlay and walnut accents.  

This heirloom bookcase made of local curly cherry was commissioned by a private client to store a deceased relative's prized toys and books.

Interlocking ring pattern carved into a headboard rail for Bittners, LLC

Woodworking allows Myra to develop an intimate connection with clients.  

What was the path from the Arts and Crafts movement to occupational therapy? The early Arts and Crafts philosophers worked in insane asylums and tuberculosis sanatoriums. The residents of these facilities didn’t have to work and could essentially do what they wanted so long as they were isolated from the rest of society. But the philosophers adopted a different view. Because the system failed to give the residents much meaning in their lives, the philosophers would assign them ordinary tasks such as basket weaving or folding laundry — things that might have even reflected their old routines.

Then, WWII happened. Because of new medical advances, soldiers were surviving injuries that they wouldn’t have previously. The Arts and Crafts aids from the asylums were sent to hospitals to help surviving soldiers adapt to doing everyday activities in spite of difficulties such as amputations. These aids evolved into what we call occupational therapists today.

This coffee table made of natural-edged local red oak was commissioned for a private client to show their personal collection of paper ephemera in its glass-topped mirrored display box. 

This is a commemorative sculpture for Heaven Hill's Evan Williams Honey Reserve Liquer. It was constructed from a disassembled white oak bourbon barrel. 

1 comment:

  1. May I have a contact address to see if she can replicate some outside corner crown molding for me?
    Kathy DeStephanis


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