There is something delightfully earthly about working with your hands and using nature’s raw materials as your canvas. Emma Cordner is one Toronto-based woman who does just that. As founder of EC Crafts, Emma is a skilled woodworker who creates handmade works of art using local, organic wood.
I first discovered EC Crafts when I ordered a raw-edged fruitwood cheese tray, complete with a custom burn, for a friend’s birthday gift. Emma’s talent and unique trade skill left an impression on me.
We spoke about what it means to be a woodworking woman in a “man’s world,” and how she draws inspiration from Canada’s natural beauty.
On her woodworking beginnings:
I've always been a creative person, and I love working with my hands. It was definitely my Dad that sparked my initial interest in working with wood. He has always been quite the handyman and has pretty much a full shop set up in our family home, so when I was younger, I was always tagging along and eager to help.
I’m proud to say my Dad has been my mentor through my woodworking journey and has taught me everything I know – literally from how to hold a drill to using a compound mitre saw and everything in between.
On the catalyst that drove her to create her own company, EC Crafts:
EC Crafts initially started out as a hobby, just something fun I would do on the weekends or in my spare time. My girlfriends and I would even have “wine and craft nights” and take a stab at the DIY headboard project we saw on Pinterest. As I crafted more and more it actually became quite therapeutic for me. Something about putting on music and just working away on a quiet Sunday afternoon was one of my favourite things. And one day I just thought to myself, wouldn’t it be cool if I could turn what I love into a career. And here I am! Technically I've been a registered business for 16 months, but have slowly been building up EC Crafts for almost three years.
On women who woodwork:
To be honest, when I first started woodworking I was super intimidated. I felt very much "in a man’s world" and I always felt a little self-conscious going into a lumber store or a hardware store and talking to people about what I needed or was looking for. Pretty quickly I realized so much of that was in my head and I was always dealing with really great people in the industry – men and women. Also, I've found my online community to have an overwhelming support of women working in a similar field. I follow a lot of great women who are also small business owners and in woodworking, so it is very refreshing to have that support from them, and we’ve built a really great community between us.
On having her own creative freedom:
Just having the freedom to create is probably one of the best parts of being a small business owner. I like making my own rules and feeling that sense of accomplishment at the end of the day that “I made that”. And I can’t stress enough how happy I am to be doing what I love. I feel so grateful and fortunate to be in this position. It’s really a dream come true.
On the challenges of being a small business owner:
This is going to sound weird but the entire business side of owning a business is definitely the biggest challenge for me [laughs]. To elaborate, I don’t have a business background at all. In fact, I went to an arts high school and then studied sociology in University. So, as you can imagine, the first year of running a legitimate business was definitely a learning curve for me. People use to tell me “oh, just write that off on your business! Yeah write that off!” and made it seem like you were getting things for free, which clearly is not the case, but as time went on and I did some research and chatted with a few other small business owners, I started getting a grasp for those sorts of things. I definitely still have a ton more to learn but I have come a long way, and it’s been a great ride.
On being drawn to nature and the outdoors:
I spent 13 years of my childhood growing up at a summer camp just outside of Peterborough. And I spent a lot of that time living in small cabins or going on canoe trips in Algonquin Park and the Kawartha’s. Waking up with the sun and paddling through the water just taking in the scenery …these were, by far, some of the absolutely best times of my life. And as much as I love Toronto, there is nothing I love more than loading up my car on the weekend and heading up north for some R&R.
On sourcing local, organic raw materials:
A lot of the material I source is from other local and small businesses because it all comes back to helping each other out. It’s a fun club to be in – the small business owner club – because everyone is super supportive and encouraging of each other. I take pride in doing my part by shopping locally and I think my customers appreciate that too.
On the foreseeable future:
I think of myself as a bit of a free spirit and really just like to live in the moment as much as I can. I guess this could potentially be my strongest or weakest quality. But naturally, I would like to see EC Crafts expand and grow into a thriving business. I’d really love to take more woodworking classes, learn more techniques and be able to offer more products. I’d really love to learn as much as I can and master my craft. I’d also LOVE to travel across Canada - west coast to east coast – to take in and be inspired by all of Canada’s natural beauty. That is a dream of mine.