To Joyce Chanel, a forest is a vast wonderland of potential. Instead of seeing an oak or maple tree, Joyce sees a table or a lamp. “Wood, to me, is one of the most versatile and beautiful things you can create art with. You never get the same piece twice. Color, texture, grain: it’s always different,” Joyce said.
Just like a kid in a toy store, Joyce gets a childlike grin from ear to ear whenever she visits one of her local Las Vegas lumber stores. She frequents them enough that they know her by name (although it’s not hard, as not many 5’9” bubbly brunettes with tiny pigtails frequent the store).
From her first Erector® set, to helping her father build and remodel their house, and even a few impromptu remodeling projects, building things has been a constant for Joyce from a very young age. Her father, a career Coast Guardsmen, was, at the time, stationed on St. Paul Island, Alaska. Joyce wanted a larger room and decided to grab a sledgehammer and go to town on the adjoining wall between the office and her bedroom. After the dust settled, she patiently waited for her father’s return. With shock and an undeniable twinkle of proudness, he patched the wall, and she had one large room.
Joyce has come a long way from the demolition stage. Clearly knowing how to knock things down, she wanted to learn how to build them up. Prior to freshman year of high school, she was able to make a wish list of classes she’d like to take. Construction and woodshop were at the top. The administration felt a cheerleader in construction would be too much of a distraction but agreed to woodshop. Being the only female in a sea of adolescent, overzealous boys meant she was the center of attention. Blowing her skirt up with the air hose became a weekly, without-fail occurrence. Despite the extra attention, by her last year of woodshop she had acquired several first place wins on items large and well… large. Joyce never likes to make anything small. By graduation, she completed a 6-foot-long cedar chest, a desk for her shop teacher, a trophy case for the cheerleaders, and an entertainment stand that was too big for her room.
Fast forward a few years, Joyce had moved around a bit, and woodworking took a backseat.
One night, while out with friends, a few miles from home, she was struck by a drunk driver. She suffered significant damage to her neck, resulting in periodic loss of feeling in half her body, constant muscle spasms, and acute and perpetual pain. She was unable to perform the most basic tasks required for any job. After over two dozen surgeries, she still can’t work for long periods of time and has chronic pain. However, that drove her to start back up doing what she loves. Shortly after moving to Las Vegas in 2012, she got back into woodworking. Working from home afforded her the ability to work around her pain. Over several months, she built up a modest tool arsenal and now creates home decor pieces ranging from tables and lamps to chairs, wine stands, and more.
Recently, she started to incorporate new media into her woodwork. “I like how materials like stone and metal complement the wood and offer a contrast. They don’t take away from the wood, but help frame it and enhance its natural beauty. With woodworking, you are only limited to your imagination and determination,” Joyce said.
According to Joyce, her gender as a woodworker is still an issue for some. “Being a woman is like a double-edged sword. There are those who don’t take you seriously. However, despite the few haters, being a woman definitely makes you memorable,” she said. “While in my hometown, I went into a local shop to see if they would carry some of my items. Both the manager and the female owner loved everything. The male owner liked what I had and asked who did it. When I told him it was made by me, he quickly replied ‘Oh! No, we’re not interested.’”
Joyce didn’t let the rejection stop her. She worked harder and, since that encounter, has her products in six stores throughout Reno, Nevada. She is currently moving into the Las Vegas market and is working on expanding more. “My goal is to have my work in homes across America. I design and build to last. I’m always telling my clients, ‘Take care of the wood, and it will last you a lifetime!’”