Mark Downing Discuss Being a Maker


Today. I'm going to introduce you. Mark Downing vadly with over forty years. Experience his Bene- Creator in so many disciplines woodworking metalworking design general contracting to just name a few. We will discuss what it's like to be a maker and how it affected his journey through life mark. Thank you for meeting with me and welcome to. Its would thank thank you. It's nice to be here very nice now. We just had a two or three or shop around your house. I'm going to have some photos on the website. So check those out out that this man's eye for design is stunning. Wanted you guys to look at those pictures somewhere. What turned what was the first time you've got turned onto woodworking? Oh Gee I've been making things out of wood. I can remember back to six years years old in the basement. Working at you know my dad would be working on something and I would be driving nails into a block of wood So it it goes back a long long way of throughout my childhood I built tree houses ever more fanciful and crazy and And then in in high school in my freshman year in high school I built a sailboat. that I then sailed for a couple of years and and Like that quite a lot and so I built other sailboat. I and then I in a and I enjoy sailing a lot and so from there I went off to college and had a regular liberal arts education but during that time Ah I hooked up with a sculpture teacher who In his basement was building a beady for airplane and Shy I got to work on Beatty Beatty for airplane which is all aluminum fabrication rivets and things like that and So I've just been making things all along I started out as a teacher that wanted to be a teacher I graduated with a degree in education and I went to northern Italy and studied for a year. They're in Montessori Education. It became certified as an elementary level Montessori teacher I then taught after that for are five years and decided that I really didn't enjoy that it was. I felt I felt like I was burning out really quickly on it and TAME Came back brought my my wife and my baby child to my parents house and Camp Out on the Sofa for a month or two and Tried to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up on my mother finally got sick and tired of of that and She said Hey. Hey you know I know this. Nice young man. And he's remodeling a house and he needs some help and you know how to build things So you ought to go down there and and Dan she. If you'll hire you to do something and I went down and he hired me stuff. Insulation Attic of a two hundred and fifty year old house in Annapolis Helpless Maryland. It was a beautiful house. It was all timber frame. Basic core. Construction dovetails mortices and tendons everywhere everywhere. And it was just thrilling and stuffing insulation in. The attic was terrible and I did that for about two days. and Ah Jake Then decided that he wanted to hire me as a helper carpenter's helper. So I did that for a little while and decided if I they wanted to be a carpenter that I wanted to woodworking professionally and then I decided that I could do that anywhere And I ought to choose. Is the place that I want to do that. And so I chose Portland Oregon. My brother WHO's already here going to college and again I brought my my wife and daughter water out and we slept on his floor For a while until I got my feet under me and I did Various kinds of carpentry three and then finally settled into Cabinet making I I I was hired as a journeyman cabinet maker for the Charles Grant Company company here in Portland. Charles Grant Company doesn't exist any longer odd but it was the the largest most prestigious cabinet shop on the West Coast coast. It did a lot of very high in commercial work When I first started working there We were doing four floors of law offices in boob Inca all wall paneling all the doors when the elevator doors opened in your stepped into the hall. You were walking through sequence matched veneers Going around outdoors over bookcases. Everything is beautiful. Yeah for four floors And I was one of thirteen cabinet makers working there and the other there are only two of us spoke English as a native language. The other eleven had all served their apprenticeship in Europe up in the old traditional way where the parents pay the cabinet maker to take their kids away and teach them something useful and and and they they apprenticeship quite long. It's about four years or so and so they all had these beautiful handmade tool chest with full of beautiful handmade tools. And there. I was And I just felt like from the day I walked in the door to the day that I got laid off because they you know they are temporary slowdown On that my features weren't touching the floor. I was just running so fast. Just trying to just trying to keep my head above that water and So so that was really a special experience for me After that with that on my resume on I was able to which are able to get jobs in a couple of very nice con situations and I did I ran My own cabinet shop. I had twelve cabinet makers working for me and And I sold that and then I went to work for a a prestigious you just General Contracting Company as project manager and we did very high end homes there and so I've been I've been and seeking out very wealthy people and trying to get them to build. Allow me to build them something For some time and And that brings me to present so just so the audience knows. Can you tell me about Atlay. What what is the scope of Your Business Right Let's see basically I think of myself as wearing three different hats that I think of myself as a designer I will spend on some projects aval spent months working on my computer in autocad working. I can't on designs of things Designing both woodwork and and hardware for that woodwork. And also I designed lately I've been designing carve stone and tower two in as part of the larger project. I like working working with multiple trades in Working with top craftsman in other in other crafts and That's certainly the situation. I'm in right now. The project working on right now. I think I forgot what your original question was. I was I was just trying to actually And so that's the designer and then as a specialty woodworker I have my woodworking working shop in my backyard and I billed special things for the projects that I design and I also build things for other people to for other architects and other designers and and so yes I do a lot of woodworking. My shop is is specific acidic in that. It's not as small as twenty four feet by twenty four feet and it's not all set up for handling a four byte sheet of plywood and if I need to deal with far by shoot apply what I cut it down to rough size out in the driveway and then bring it in and deal with it then All almost all the work that I do in that shop is with solid. Wood solid woodworking frame and panel construction on that sort of thing and so I do a lot of specialty woodworking and then I also a licensed general contractor in Oregon Oregon and so I- organize a variety of other trades to accomplish projects I take on landscaping contracts And then I'm involved in The landscaping structures and building designing and building them I take on a residential construction projects and they may be designed by someone else or design them and then I build special would work work for them and supervise all the other traits. Bring the other trades in also so yeah Designer woodworker and general contractor. Now I know this is like asking you to pick your favorite child but which of those three brings you the most joy. Oh I think design and woodworking brings brings me the most joy I I really enjoy the general contracting because at its best on what I'm I'm just working shoulder to shoulder with other really top people in their fields and the synergy of the creativity that happens is is just thrilling and the the the final product is is just so cool and well beyond what I could've done

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