Michael Clark has found a way to combine the best of both worlds, transforming his hobby into a full-time job he loves - not unlike the way he transforms simple blocks of wood into masterful works of art.
"I've done this since I was a child. My father is an excellent carpenter, but he hated doing the fine trim work, and a lot of that involved hand tools. So he would have my uncles teach me to do hand tool work, which was non-powered tools. Through the trim work, I was doing a lot of the small intricate stuff," Clark said.
Two years ago, Clark lost his job. While looking for new work, he began doing more and more woodwork projects in his home workshop.
"After about a month of this, my wife looked at me and said, 'Why in the world are you looking for another job?'" Clark said.
Now Clark owns Twin Valley Custom in Twin Valley, along Ohio 139. His father, whom he once assisted on jobs, now works in the job assisting him. Together, their shop has done projects for many different clients, including local schools and churches. Customers bring in their ideas, torn out of catalogs or hastily scribbled upon a napkin. From those basic ideas, Clark perfects the designs using a mixture of hand drawings and AutoCAD computer programming. He said he can fabricate almost any design customers bring him.
"We're trying to eliminate what we don't do, and make that area as small as possible," Clark said. "A lot of the designs come out of my head. I just love putting wood and glass and steel all together, which you don't see a lot of."
Just gazing around his woodshop in the garage next to his home, one will find a variety of designs and projects hidden behind clouds of pine and maple; designs such as birdhouses, mirror designs, household novelties, signs, furniture, lamps and even tiny potty training seats for small children. One of his biggest sellers, however, are his cornhole boards which ship to buyers all across the country.
"For the last two years, we've sold hundreds of these. Last week, I shipped a set to Florida and a set to Atlanta. I assumed come holiday season, it would be cold and wouldn't be a need for them. That was a mistake. Come the first of December, the phone stared ringing and did not stop. We were turning out boards as fast as we could build them for Christmas gifts," he said.
Now, Clark said, he always keeps a healthy supply of cornhole boards in stock and ready to ship. The shop also does custom embroidery on the bags and storage totes.
After putting in a full day of working on customer orders in workshop, Clark said he goes into the house and has dinner with his family, and then it's his time to relax ... right back in the woodshop, working on his own projects.
As both an artist and a tradesman, Clark is always looking for new ways to express himself through his woodwork.
"One of the new areas we're branching out into is the stained glass work," Clark said, pointing to a hummingbird piece he created using wood, metal and stained glass for the wings. "I do a lot of presentations for Cream of the Crop, and this was my entry for this year."
In the 2006 Cream of the Crop, Clark entered a wooden butterfly piece, with stained glass in its wings. That piece is now on display at Shawnee Lodge. In fact, several of his pieces are on display in businesses all across the county, including a table he crafted for AAA in Portsmouth to honor the Portsmouth Floodwall Murals.
But for many local artists, there is nowhere to showcase their talents. Clark and his wife are members of the Portsmouth Area Arts Council, and said he would like to create a gallery for local artists to show their work to the community.
"There's a tremendous amount of artists in our area, craftsmen and women, who have no outlet to display their work," he said. "One of my goals here is to open a permanent gallery."
The PAAC has been helping Clark and his wife find a suitable facility in a good location to display work from local artists.
People interested in seeing Clark's work can visit the Twin Valley Custom Web site, at www.twinvalleycustom.com, when it launches next week. The site will feature a gallery of work, a purchase page to buy items, and a contact page to request information on custom designs.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235.