Jamie Gielens – l’atelier Orion

Cowichan Bay WoodworkingI’ve been in love with wood ever since, as a youth, a family friend gave me a set of exotic wood veneers. The beauty of the grain and the scents (this was when you could still get real Sandalwood!) captivated me completely.

Despite this and a couple of years of woodworking in high school, my woodworking was more of the construction variety involving renovating numerous houses with the very occasional foray into making a bookcase or something for the home that I thought I could make without butchering it. Although I had long ago lost those veneer samples, I was collecting pieces of exotic woods from sources such as pallets we received in shipments from the Orient and surrounding businesses and had quite a substantial collection.

When my wife Lucie and I moved to the Island in 2006 one of my dreams started to take wing as I studied with noted local Cowichan carver Herb Rice for a time to learn carving in the Northwest Coast style. I also became a largely self-taught artisan in wood (it’s amazing what you can learn from books), developing a passion for our beautiful local Red and Yellow Cedar and finding it the ideal medium in which to begin to express my thoughts! This was also the beginning of my delving deeper into nature with the use of polished and natural stone and shell as an ingrained part of my (what I now considered) art!

A Childhood Dream Takes Flight

Cowichan WoodworkingIn the summer of 2009 with the help of my wife, I finally built my own studio after sharing one with Herb Rice for a couple of years.

Now was the time for my ideas to really take flight as the experience I had given myself had made me far more comfortable with the physical operations involved in fine woodworking so I was able to see how I could bring my designs to life.

Without completely abandoning the cedar and native style work I was doing, I began to branch out into the use of more exotic woods and more exotic designs.

A couple of well-paying commissions along the way helped immensely to build my confidence and gave me the conviction that my designs were going in the right direction.

A conscious decision I made early in my woodworking was that I would use no timber which was from an endangered source. To this end, my Cedar and much of my oak and a few odd species was all from a small local independent mill whose logs came from dead-falls, wind damaged trees or salvaged logs from previous logging operations. Unfortunately, he has retired but I bought as much of his wood as I could afford before he closed down and still have some great useable pieces.


Immense Beauty from Reclaimed or Sustainable Sources

Jamie 5My exotic hardwoods are all from reclaimed or sustainable sources.  Fortunately, all reputable timber dealers will certify their timber is from these sources or will state where it actually came from so that the user can determine if they wish to use it or not.

There is a large business developing in the salvage of old timber for reuse and a lot of our “genuine” Mahogany and Rosewood is salvaged wood that was cut, in some cases, over 200 years ago and used for paneling in homes but was saved when the houses in question were demolished!  It is not just these woods though.  Here in B.C., Arbutus is a protected species and is not to be cut for lumber.  However, if a tree has been damaged by fire or disease or blown over by the wind it can be used for timber.  I was able to obtain a small amount of some wide planks and it is the most beautiful wood to work with!

Jamie 1I enjoy making what some people would look upon as “stock” pieces as any type of woodworking carries its own satisfaction for me – just knowing that I took a rough piece of wood and was able to make a thing of beauty as well as utility brings me immense enjoyment.

However, I really get a charge when I am requested to do a custom-designed piece for a client.  Whether it is big or small, being able to bring a client’s dreams to life is one of the most rewarding things I can do.  Spending the time with them in consultation, working up preliminary designs to the final piece and then seeing the look on their face when they behold the finished piece – and knowing by that look that I captured their thoughts perfectly, is its own reward.  Knowing how important people’s dreams are to them is one reason why I will not turn down even the smallest commission!  It is something that someone has put a lot of thought and their life into and therefore is worth something to them regardless of what I may earn as a result of the commission.