By Bonnie Schiedel
When Jami Breukelman spotted a rustic wooden sign online, she thought, “I can make that.” She dusted off her husband’s tools, got a few pointers from her carpenter brother, and started learning about sawing, sanding, and finishing. “I love solid wood, and I’ve always been interested in home décor,” says Breukelman, who works as a registered nurse at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. She made some signs for her own family, then for some friends. In May 2015 she posted a few pictures on a local buy and sell site and the orders started rolling in. Customers wondered if she had her own site, so she added a business Facebook page in June and a website in November. The result: 225 sales in six months.
She’s a fan of the distressed look that vintage wood planks have, and uses a variety of reclaimed wood in her work. The sources are pretty close to home: pallets from the feed bags delivered to her family’s dairy farm operation, barn board from her parents’ rural property and a Slate River Valley farm, and electrical wire spools from an electrician friend. “Working with the wood and figuring out how to repurpose it is probably my favourite part,” she says. “I can envision many different designs when I see an old piece of wood.” Seeing how scrubbing, sanding, or staining transforms beat-up old wood and brings out the distressed character and natural beauty of the grain is a bit like magic.
Customer favourites include big clocks made from those wooden spool tops, oversized wall rulers to chart kids’ growth, and welcome signs and plaques with painted stencils that commemorate a birth or a wedding. She also does custom orders—barn board arrows pointing to different activities at a wedding, for example, or an inspirational quote or Bible verse stenciled on a sign.
What’s next? While her basement and garage workshops are keeping her busy these days, Breukelman would like to do more work with a silhouette machine that would allow her to create custom textile pieces like t-shirts, pillows, and banners. Eventually, she’ll try furniture like coffee tables. And perhaps an Etsy shop. And maybe something inspired by that cool piece she just saw on Instagram….