Name: Char Miller-King
Biz name/website: Wooden Maven
Hometown/Current town: Atlanta, GA
Courtesy of https://www.instagram.com/woodenmaven/
I sat down with Char Miller-King, the popular and talented Atlanta maker better known as the Wooden Maven. Char is a teacher at Decatur Makers, a Makerspace located in the suburbs of Atlanta, and has been a writer for Highland Woodworking. We chatted about how she started her road to making, who inspires her and how she balances being a wife, mother of four and entrepreneur in a male-dominated industry.
How long have you been a Maker?
I’ve been a maker for almost twenty years. I got into making when I graduated from college (Clark Atlanta University) and couldn’t afford the bed I wanted, so I figured out how to make it. The Wooden Maven came in 2017, and to be honest I didn’t know anyone could be a full-time instagram influencer at the time or that it was even a thing.
What has being a maker meant to you?
It’s been more about making for me. It's been about giving people hope, instilling confidence in people that you can do something that may be seen as off the beaten path. And, of course, to be an inspiration to other people. I found my purpose in making and I want to help other people find theirs, even if it's not making.
It’s okay to take that leap of faith without a plan. I left my job with no plan. It wasn't working for me, and I wanted to figure out where making would lead me because I didn't know…. I never set out to be a teacher but here I am.
How do you juggle being a wife and mother of 4 on top of your business?
It's a long process. I'm married to someone who is not a maker. So the roles ended up sort of being reversed. The garage is full of tools, but all the tools are my tools.
For a while I was just making sawdust. I wasn't making money or building furniture for anybody. I think what changed was after I had my twins (my youngest), I fully immersed them into the maker world because after they came along, that's when I found the Makerspace, and became part of that community. When I started teaching they were right there with me so they grew up in a Makerspace.. It's not odd to see their mom with tools. They'll be able to say when I was six and I built a mantle at my house.
In the first couple of years of making videos, I pushed them out of the back of all the videos saying, I need to finish this or let me do this, but then after a while, I kept recording with them in the background. People really resonated with that, because that showed my real life.
I'm not this perfect, polished mom that has it all together. I'm taking it each day at a time, but most importantly, making sure that my family always comes first. When you’re in a marriage and have a family, you have to do what works best for everybody and not for yourself and thankfully, I have my husband’s support. He's my biggest cheerleader, as are my children. Three of the four of them are really into power tools and wood. One is more into hand tools, but I let them make sure I don't restrict them. It's showing them that there are no limitations. Everybody's a maker, right?
What do you think you'd be doing if you hadn't decided to become a maker?
If I didn't need that bed, I'd probably be in Cairo. I've always had a fascination with archaeology and anthropology, and I'm a lover of history. So I would be excavating an ancient site if I wasn't woodworking Who knows I may have a third life. I'm on my second career now. I can never get enough of history. So maybe a history teacher.
Where do you wanna go next with the Wooden Maven?
I spent most of 2020 talking to casting agents and production companies for television roles. I feel like it's time for people to see something different on television. I would also like to integrate education and not just necessarily woodworking. Woodworking is something that I love to do, but I also enjoy different mediums. Our house is a crafty house. We've got paint, rocks and do paper crafts and make things on the Cricut.
There has been a lot of research about how making affects the way children learn and the benefits of hands-on experiences and how that transforms the development of their brain. This is why I allow my kids to be creators. I know from working in the community with Makerspace, that a lot of people do not know that certain tools and materials exist, or that young people are capable of being creative. I would love to give people the opportunity to see what is possible.
One tool you couldn’t do without:
Maker who inspires you:
My Uncle Greg. I'll tell you a quick story. Back in '04, I bought my first power tool, a circular saw. All of a sudden, in my mind, I thought I was a woodworker. Youtube wasn’t even out yet, so I had nothing to go on. I really didn't know what I was doing. One of my college buddies asked me to build a bookcase surrounding his picture window. I said, oh, yeah, I can build it. So I attempted to build it, I don't even know if I had a drill because I remember hammering a lot of nails in, and I asked him what color he wanted to stain.
Turns out I had stained the wrong color. It was too dark. I had no clue on how to lighten wood. My grandfather told me I could bleach the wood. The bookcase definitely looked like my first project in terms of somebody's skill level. I called my uncle, who went to school during a time when there was a woodshop, where the woodshop teachers made wood glue themselves.
He knows pretty much everything about construction and carpentry. I called him and just said, I messed up. I don't know what to do. Can you walk me through what to do? He lives in St. Louis and he packed up his truck with ALL of his tools, and drove to Atlanta. He took it down, and rebuilt the whole thing. So this guy got a professional grade bookcase.
My uncle never made me feel bad about it. He's always been in my corner and my champion. He's the one person that I call when I get stuck on something because I know immediately he'll know the answer. He actually visited a couple of weeks ago to help me organize my shop. This time he didn't have to bring a single tool. He is my woodworking inspiration.
And lastly, what’s the longest you’ve stayed up to finish a project?
I live in a townhome community and never worked through the night, not with power tools. I once worked late and ended up cutting my finger on the bandsaw. I was tired and distracted. As far as the other side of making, like editing videos or computer tasks, I have stayed up for 48 hours doing that to meet deadlines.
So when it comes to actual power tools, once I start getting tired, no matter what, I shut it off. No matter how familiar you think you are with a tool there can always be mistakes when exhaustion sets in.
Learning from mistakes has turned into valuable lessons for Char. She can currently be seen on Discovery Plus, Restoration Road with Clint Harp (Episode 10). She also recently partnered with Popular Mechanics to create a POP Project for a children’s wagon video with her children (and neighbor's puppy!). Watch it here on YouTube or TikTok. Follow Char on Instagram and Facebook to see more of her family friendly making, building content and tips!