OCEAN PARK — Ali Harrington says that working with wood gives her a sense of “purpose and usefulness in the world.” No matter what her project, she envisions it first “clear as day” in her head before she ever draws a sketch of the plan. And when the work starts, it transforms her. Classic artist that she is, she gets lost in the creation of each project.
Harrington explained, “A calm comes over me when I put the chisel or a hand plane to wood. It’s a very strong feeling, internally, Almost spiritual. I just have a sense of calm when I am around wood. I am transported.”
Every piece she creates is original and unique. She never duplicates a design and to Harrington, the term mass-production if a four letter word. She doesn’t use anyone else’s plans.
“I wish to be known for building and creating unique items,” she said, frankly. “I never, ever replicate anything. I only do one of a kind custom items that are specific for that particular person.”
It’s quite a process, even in the beginning stages. “When someone wants an item, I go over to their home to look at all of the other items it’s going to be melding with,” she explained. That, she added, is when the image of the new piece germinates in her head. “I can see it in my brain and I know exactly what it’s going to look like. It’s just the coolest feeling and there’s really nothing else that does that.”
Before moving to the peninsula, she was an aircraft mechanic in Seattle. “When I was working on airplanes,” she recalled, “I didn’t get that same feeling. This makes more sense to my head and my heart.”
And while her pieces are all intricately original, she does say that she is inspired by Stickley and also Greene & Greene craftsman furniture styles. These are companies that have been producing classic pieces for well over a century. One of Stickley’s mottoes is, “Great furniture creates, and carries, memories across time.” The company also states that furniture is “one of the most intimate products any of us will acquire. We share our meals around it. We rock our babies in it. We furnish the places of our lives so our families will love returning home, so our friends will look forward to visiting.”
With those inspirations in mind, Harrington said, “I put my own spin on things.”
At the start of her furniture building venture, she apprenticed with master woodworker Wayne Ivy, who taught her how to create fine pieces from scratch. He passed away in 2011. Harrington will always be grateful for the several years she was able to work with him. “He taught me well,” she said, but added that she has since developed her own unique style. And in doing so, she is creating family heirlooms.
Whether she’s building dining room sets, window tables, side tables, bookcases, butcher blocks or cutting boards, she said that every piece, “gets the same amount of care and thoughtfulness as it is created,”
All of her creations are made with hardwood. “None of it is soft,” she emphasized. She travels to Crosscut Hardwoods in Portland, to get the wood. Crosscut is known as The Woodworkers’ Candy Store. She also plans to make a purchase soon from Goby Walnut, also in Portland. She said she has a customer that wants a butcher block end grain walnut table, counter top height. She’ll start this project after she finishes building custom cabinets for a boat — a boat that is currently in her driveway.
When Harrington and her partner, Sonya Lynn, moved into their house in Ocean Park, they knew right away that custom pieces would really add uniqueness to their home. Lynn, who works now for Craft3, but used to be a potter, shares Harrington’s artistic visions.
One of the large pieces Harrington began while working with Wayne Ivy, but ultimately brought home to finish, is a glass-doored book case in their living room. It’s just a bit shorter than her own 5-foot height.
In their dining room is a hand-crafted 3 by 5-foot table that Harrington made, together with benches for seating – benches which open and have storage inside. “I like making things that are functional and beautiful and try to get as much functionality out of an item as possible. That’s what I adore.”
On top of that dining room table is a potted orchid, testimony to Lynn’s passion for these flowers. She has close to 50 of them, so Harrington built what she calls “orchid tables” — long and narrow pieces with dovetailed drawers. The provide a platform for many of the orchids.
Since Harrington started taking commissions, word of mouth referrals have been active. She is also on Facebook as Ali Harrington Woodworks and Instagram as @AliHarringtonWoodworks. “I have 4,000 followers on Instagram,” she said.
On Dec. 17, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., she’ll have some of her work at the Adrift Hotel in Long Beach at a gathering of artists, who will be selling their items. Check for details in the Chinook Observer Community Calendar.
Lynn and Harrigton have their Ocean Park home for sale and hope to move up to the Sequim area after it sells. “Sonya’s able to transfer to the Port Angeles office and I’m able to tap into the woodworking community there.”
They hope to find a home on acreage where they can “have a flower farm and bees, my own aviary– and lots of different things,” Harrington said, adding that they’d also like to have an “airbnb.”
Harrington made a lot of cutting boards in the beginning of her woodworking career. “That’s how it started,” she said, “but it’s certainly not all I do now. I love taking on the largest project I possibly can. I like the challenge. I want to be looked upon as a furniture maker.”
Once again, she mentioned how she is transported by the magic of working with wood. “I like to say that I put every ounce of myself into my items. I put my heart into every piece.”
Sitting on one of the benches at her dining room table, she took a slow breath, exhaled and said, “I am passionate about what I do and the pieces speak to that.”
Find Harrington’s products online at tinyurl.com/Ali-Harrington.