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Women in Woodworking - Meet Marylou Garcia-Anderson
By Char Miller-King
Atlanta, GA

The beauty of woodworking is that it takes on many different meanings for all of us. For those like Marylou Garcia-Anderson, it's all about art form. A Raleigh, North Carolina transplant who studied digital media, video, and film making in college pours her artistic talents into creating cinematically produced videos of her craftsmanship at work.

While Marylou grew up in the golden state of California, she now calls the south home where she works as a technical support engineer for cloud storage by day then it's off to her workshop in her newly purchased home to help bring her clients dreams to life. These moments of self-reflection, where she can be creative, all stem from her upbringing which delved into all art forms. Her entire family is made up of musicians and singers who supported her during schooling when she decided to drop pre-calculus and took up acrylic painting instead. This led to a propitious moment in 2015, when she snagged some pallets from a neighborhood construction site. Her first project was a table. Designing and building her first project led her down a self-described, "rabbit-hole."

Thankfully, her parents owned a miter saw and job-site table saw, which made it easier for her to start and learn how to use these tools along with hours of YouTube videos. The next few pieces for her personal collection included a chrevroned multi-toned headboard suspended above her bed that also doubled as a hat rack, for her stylish collection. One of her largest builds to date, was a massive twelve foot bookshelf.

As of now, Marylou is doing about 70% of work for customers; one of her all time favorites was a kitchen island with a live edge that included drawers, it was her first time making drawers. Every makers dream is to be given creative liberties on a project, which she had on this one; reflecting, "A lot of firsts came out on this project and it was AWESOME." While home run projects boost our confidence, there are those that tend to break at every joint.

The most challenging project she's had to date was a custom desk for an HOA administrative office last year. She knew this build was going to be intense, there was even an interview to take on the project. All the pre-cursor clearance seemed overwhelming and she secretly hoped they wouldn't select her for the job.

Well, they did and she was in store for the design challenge of the decade. After reviewing the recipients Pinterest boards and being asked to combine several elements from each Pin, Marylou went to work. She incorporated storage, embedded outlets, and a tray for a slide out keyboard. At the time she did not own a track saw, which would have made the project so much easier. Nevertheless, she soldiered on, fixing her mistakes or covering them up with design elements. Such as the leather drawer pulls she made. The final project was composed of birch and birch plywood finished with polyurethane. The customer was enamored with her work and absolutely loved the desk.

For the true creative, it's more than connecting two pieces of a dead tree or getting the right stain finish, for Marylou woodworking is also about the power to choose what lumber inspires her to create something beautiful. Hands down her favorite species is cherry. The straight-grained durable hardwood is easy to work with and classically beautiful even without colored finishes. Next in line for preferred lumber are walnut, hickory, and affordable plywood. Her no-fuss local lumberyard supplies all her goods, but she says, "You have to know exactly what you want before you get there, it is not a place for indecisive shoppers."

The design and finish process is almost as important as the actual building. She uses SketchUp and Adobe Suite products to help with the order of operations and for producing plans for her clients. The game changer for her in the shop, was purchasing a benchtop drum sander. It does everything she needs with the peace of mind that her projects will be flat, especially hard woods. When she is batching out cutting boards, her finishes come out smooth as silk. A close second to the sander is the jointer, "It's so satisfying to see joints come out flush."

With a new home to decorate and renovate, Marylou's maker future is looking bright. She has aspirations to focus more on the development stage of how her videos will be formatted and get into the space of quickly editing, producing, and sharing what she has made to inspire others to do what they love. Her video equipment arsenal rivals that of her tool collection, including a Sony mirrorless camera, field monitors, and an adjustable camera dolly track slider. While she has also dabbled in metal work, forging a knife from an old saw blade, she is clear that not being niched down to one thing allows her to express all forms of the arts, her key motivator. "Writing, singing, making furniture, and making videos about making furniture are my passions, I'm here to express what lives inside me."

If you are new to woodworking or any art form, Marylou's advice is simple, "Jump in head first, do a full on swan dive. Don't worry about making mistakes, you will make mistakes, and most mistakes are fixable. If you have to start over that's okay, it's part of the process and will inform the next project. Make every moment a learning opportunity and don't let frustration overcome you. Your next project will be better than your last."

You can learn more about Marylou's journey and her work, by following her on Instagram, Facebook, and on YouTube.

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

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