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We are interviewing producers from all 50 states. Today we present Baboucarr Faal, a carpenter and philanthropist from Virginia.
How did you start the woodworking? Who were your mentors?
As someone who has studied engineering, my 9-5 is nowhere near working with my hands or creating. Woodworking has given me this outlet to pursue my desire to create. I really like designing and planning projects, especially things I’ve never tried. Maybe it’s the thrill of the unknown or the satisfaction of understanding it. So when my daughter was born, she needed a dresser, so I decided that I should build one. I looked around to see if it was something I could face alone. By that time I had already accumulated some tools to remodel my home, so I found the confidence to build using an Ana-White.com plan. During that time, I also founded an organization called Together for the Gambia (TFG) with a poverty alleviation mission in my country of birth, Gambia. So I thought, what better way to marry my two passions than to use carpentry as a means of raising funds for TFG by donating the proceeds of my buildings! Charity Builds is born!
I don’t actually have mentors, but I had Ana-White plans to give me the confidence and understanding that much of the woodworking is strategically taking large pieces, cutting them into small pieces and then putting them back together. I know I’m simplifying it too much, but it just clicked. Oh and YouTube! Great credit goes to the online joinery community!
What do you think is your best or favorite job? What kind of work do you do most?
The most significant piece to date is the dresser I made for my daughter for obvious reasons. Children use it to this day. I recently swapped old runners and he’s still kicking. Another piece that I made that stands out is an epoxy maple and bird’s eye coffee table that I donated to a charity event in honor of the Gambian Minister of Justice for his fantastic work on the genocide against Rohingya in Myanmar.
As for my best job, it’s a transition between a Mid Century desk and a hallway bench that I’ve just completed. With every day I spend in my shop, woodworking is becoming a real passion of mine, and with each passing year my skills are growing and my ambitions are bigger. I am attracted to the construction of modern furniture.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start carpentry or pursue it as a profession?
This is difficult because I still consider myself a novice in this space. What I can say that is not really specific for woodworking, but applies to DARE TO BE DIFFERENT and ONLY DOING IT! While you are there, you will make mistakes due to the lack of knowledge, tools and for no reason other than the fact that we are human and even professionals are wrong. What you learn during those mistakes (if you don’t know, ask) sharpens your skills. Plus, find your niche and build things you like to build. You will get to the point where trendy buildings don’t excite you or the crowd, so following the crowd isn’t the way to go to keep that passion alive.
What’s your best woodworking tip or technique?
Be inspired because details matter! More a design / aesthetic tip than a technique is to be a “sponge”. When it comes to designing and building, I understand that there are a myriad of ways to get comparable results. There are also many styles that are fantastic in their own right. What I’ve found so far has been to be able to see different styles and implementation methods and adapt a design or build to take a little here and a little there to get to a final product. You end up going a little bit in a circle but the final product will be well composed.
Is there anyone you would like to scream or recommend to follow? Who inspires you? (It doesn’t even have to be tied to carpentry.)
Wow, I think it would be wrong to name names in the carpentry community because the community has been really fantastic for me. I will shout the small but growing number of black people in the woodworking space. With the current environment, it is important to highlight the incredible steps to take, so cry out to the carpentry community.
As for inspiration, I have to go with Scott Harrison, founder of Charity Water. His journey into putting his skills as a former club promoter together with one of the leading voices in the water and toilets around the world is epic. The club promoter and philanthropy seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum, but he has realized that there is a galvanizing skill, a marketing skill and a design skill that cross paths in a world where you rely on support and goodness of people. This is why I wanted to use my furniture to share my journey in philanthropy. So that every owner of a piece of Charity Builds knows that his commissioned build has helped create a livelihood project for someone he will never meet thousands of miles away.
See more of Baboucarr’s works on his website, Facebook or on Instagram @charitybuilds
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