It all started with a comrade’s well-made, but none too well-made cornhole board for an army event; he re-designed and created it to perfection. Or maybe it started way earlier, in school, when drawing was one of his favorite subjects. And he was good at it – that good, that he won an architectural drawing competition and even a college scholarship. “But nothing came of it,” Jim Anderson, Steilacoom-based wood and glass artisan, admits. “I was already headed for the army.”
Later, during his military career, drawing became Jim’s creative outlet. And working with wood. Cornhole boards have become a specialty of his ever since, with a current waiting list of almost three dozen customers. Crafted of different kinds of hardwood and decorated with vinyl artwork, then lacquered, they are unique and solid pieces of art. “I don’t stain my wood material,” Jim says about the hardwood stash in his workshop. “I handpick my boards, and there is enough interesting grain and color out there to create something beautiful.” Walnut is only one of Jim’s favorite hardwoods to work with, or some satiny burly cherry. Yellow and purple heart find their way into carving boards. Zebra wood needs just a special polishing to shine to its fullest.
“I’m all self-taught,” Jim says almost humbly. But whoever has seen his creations – fancy wine-tables, paddle board bottle openers and key hangers, carving boards, bowls – realizes that there is a real gift at work. “I started about eight or nine years ago, and now that I’m out of the army, I want to make this my business.”
As if it were not enough, Jim discovered another great talent about two years ago. “I was a train wreck when I left the service,” Jim Anderson says. “Hot Shop Heroes”, a program designed to help wounded active duty military and veterans at the Tacoma Museum of Glass, approached him and offered him a spot in a glass art workshop. “When you work with such material and in such heat, trying to create something special, you forget all of your problems and pains,” Jim smiles. “Programs like these are amazingly helpful for wounded veterans like me. And now I want to give back.”
Giving back means, for Jim, to strive for ever more skills in the field of art and glass work. He takes classes, attends workshops, teaches people the skills he has, and has founded the company J. Anderson Wood Works. In fall, he will start studying architectural woodwork (becoming a modern version of Steilacoom’s Nathaniel Orr), i.e. learning professional cabinet making and other finessed wood work for everyday life items. “I hope to get this business off the ground quickly, and then I’ll reach out to base and offer to help other veterans in a similar way.”
For now, Jim Anderson is contracted in a poppy sculpture art glass project, has donated artifacts to the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, helps running booths at art glass festivals, and provides madrone glass molds to fellow glass blowers. Hand-made, of course. When glass meets wood in an artistic mind – make sure to look out for some amazing things to be the result!
Jim Anderson’s glass and wood art can be purchased at 42 & Co. (also online at www.shopfortytwo.com) and, seasonally, at the Steilacoom Historical Museum, both in Steilacoom. Or contact Jim directly at email@example.com.