Software engineer returns home a hardwood engineer

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Jessica Wickham’s Solid Wood Studio in Beacon, N.Y. is a candy store for any wood enthusiast. Exquisite hardwood slabs line the walls of her shop, waiting to become the next of her masterfully created custom furniture pieces.

Wickham’s reverence for enduring craft began when her work implementing software systems for Goldman Sachs led her to spend four years in Japan. To balance her days immersed in technology, Wickham enrolled in an obscure woodworking class. She became increasingly enamored with the unparalleled depth of Japanese craft, and the value placed upon the creation of objects that were mindfully connected to the natural world.

After 9/11, Goldman Sachs told Jessica to come back to New York. She opted to quit and stay in Japan for another year and a half, continuing her woodworking studies. When her visa ran out she returned to NYC, knowing that she had to keep working with her hands.

Much of the beautiful hardwood that Wickham worked with in Japan ironically came from New York State trees, so she began an upstate quest for live-edge slabs to replicate a table she had overseas. It quickly became clear that to get the quality she desired, she would have to mill the wood herself. To ensure that the wood was respectfully sourced, she would have to locate her own downed and dying trees. Soon after these realizations, she met John Woodward, a retired machinist with an underutilized hay barn in Bullville, N.Y. who was inspired by Wickham’s vision for producing her own lumber and wanted to get involved.

Ten years later, the two have perfected the creation of remarkable slabs and lumber, from which Wickham creates custom pieces for clients ranging from the Orange County Audubon to Rem Koolhaus. In her hands a tree’s story is translated into high-quality works of art, celebrating the integrity of the material, the source, and most of all, of the maker. Megan Offner

Offner is co-founder of Warwick sawmill New York Heartwoods.

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