Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 167, July 2019Welcome to Highland Woodworking - Fine Tools & Education Learn more about Highland Woodworking View our current woodworking classes and seminars Woodworking articles and solutions Subscribe to Wood News
Women in Woodworking - Meet Angela Hollis
By Char Miller-King
Atlanta, GA

This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Hollis, owner and operator of her namesake company that specializes in carpentry and historic preservation based in Birmingham, Alabama. Angela, also known as grlbuilder throughout social media, retired as a Resource Teacher after twenty years to fully pursue what she was always born to do, BUILD! Growing up on a construction site with a grandfather who was a brick mason gave her the skills she needed from an early age to get her to where she is today. She is a highly sought after certified carpenter that specializes in built-in furniture.

From her meager humble beginnings in the south, Angela would accompany her grandfather, whom she called "Papi", on various construction jobs while her mother and grandmother worked. He would send her to fetch his tape measure or a pair of dikes (diagonal pliers) for him – and she knew how to use them! She was not aware that contractors would come to repair things in people's homes, since her grandfather fixed everything himself. She watched and learned. Angela's projects started out when she and a group of friends started selling antiques at a resale store. Angela built the booths; others took notice and soon she was building their booths too! She began to realize that this is what she was supposed to do with her life. After putting in 10 hour days as a teacher, she would burn the midnight oil fulfilling orders for customers. However, she still felt there was something that was missing even though she had the skills, building was in her blood, and she had paying customers. There was one thing she thought would make her legit...

About three years ago she enrolled in a Votec Carpentry Course to be certified as a carpenter. It was during this nine-week class that Angela had an "A-ha" moment, an emotional response of sorts that made her feel legitimate. She already knew much of the information the teacher covered. Angela had already encountered biased views about being in the construction industry as a woman, but now she was with younger men who were going out in the world to get their first jobs and they were afraid to use the tools that she was already comfortable with; such as a pass load nailer and the propane hydraulic gas powered battery pack. She had no fear of these tools which made her feel validated. All this time she thought being certified would propel her forward, when everything she needed was already there. At the age of twelve Angela Hollis knew she wanted to be a carpenter, but people laughed at her aspirations, so she set her heart on being an architect. Now she could be who she was always meant to be.

Once her son entered high school she knew it was time to fulfill her lifelong dream that married this self-proclaimed history nerd with her love of building and architecture. This lead to she and her husband purchasing a 115-year-old historic home, retiring, and focusing on her business full-time.
Her business focuses on legacy pieces that are meant to be a part of a family's home for generations. With each build she gets to know the people she is working with and takes time to create a relationship and ensure they can work well together. Angela specializes in built-in bookcases and window seats. Window seats are undoubtedly her favorite piece of furniture to build, which she calls her "jam". They are a complete luxury item built for a specific place for specific things to happen in a family's life. Kids will play with dolls there, grow up there, eat, study, and the list goes on. Since much of the construction happens on site often times baseboard may need to be removed or even HVAC pipes and hoses need to be rerouted, which allows Angela to learn a new skill. If it's something she hasn't done before, she doesn't allow that to hinder her from figuring it out. Angela and I joked during our interview that her motto was "trim and caulk" as it is really what makes things pretty, ultimately.

Angela's current home in the city has a dedicated space that she uses as her workshop, which is located on the parking pad in her backyard, about the size of a one-car garage. In her shop she rips sheets of 3/4" plywood down for her builds and packs up her truck with the first tools she owned, her Dewalt circular saw, her seven inch compound miter saw, and an 18 gauge brad nailer. She's gone through plenty of deck screws for framing and typically uses pocket hole joinery. Most of her projects are routine, there is always one that pushes you to the limit.

One commission in particular came to mind for Angela, a built in wine bar with cabinets that would frame an existing refrigerator and have a sink with a marble countertop. This would be the first time Angela used a router, epoxy, and incorporated glass into a project. It was also the first time a can of paint spilled in the back of her pick-up truck. For all the things that went wrong with the project, including the seated glass provided by the client breaking after installation while the epoxy surrounded it dried; she learned so much from this. Moving forward she would provide any glass, hardware, or any other accessories in addition to lumber for each project to ensure the materials were of good quality. It turned out that the cabinet glass was too thin for the project, but at least Angela knows how to glaze glass now. The project turned out amazing as you can see from the photo.

As always, I am curious to know what is on the horizon for the wonderful women I have the opportunity to interview. Angela plans to start a blog this fall that focuses on her journey through woodworking. Much of the discussion will focus on her moving from the thought of being a carpenter to actually being one. It was a long time coming. Her next project is an 18 linear foot floor to ceiling bookcase for a couple whose home recently caught fire. Her go-to's for this build are primed 1" x 12" boards as they are typically square, a 2" x 4" floor box and furring strips along the top and bottom.

Lastly, she left me with these words of wisdom: Once you figure out what your "why" is you have found your purpose. It is less about what tool you buy next or what new skill you acquire. Why do you do what you do? Once you discover that you can move full steam ahead and dedicate yourself to being the best you can be at that.

You can check out Angela's work on her website at https://www.grlbuilder.com/ and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @GrlBuilder.

You can check out Char's website at https://www.thewoodenmaven.com/ and follow her on Instagram at @woodenmaven.

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