Woodworker Profile: Monika Pfistner, Owner of Boreal - Portland, Maine

 
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Handmade, live edge bed frame and tons of natural light.

Handmade, live edge bed frame and tons of natural light.

Dining table Monika made for her college senior project.

Dining table Monika made for her college senior project.

Let's talk shop with our adventurous, thoughtful, kind friend and woodworker Monika Pfistner.

Hey, Monika. When did you know you wanted to be a woodworker?

I still do not consider myself a woodworker, but I’m continually learning. My senior year in college, I had the opportunity to do a variety of hands on pieces for my art program. It was a welcome change of pace from the graphic design I had been studying and I knew at that point that woodworking stood out to me as something that I wanted to keep doing.

When did you start Boreal?

September 2017, when we moved back to Maine.

Tell us what inspires you most about working with wood.

The interesting shapes and unpredictability of the natural material I work with inspires me. Nature contains a certain kind of beauty that is really hard to find in other aspects life. I love the way nature is always dynamic and changing, yet so constant at the same time, not changing with the trends of the day. I hope I can capture some of that in my work.

Describe yourself in three words!

Adventurous, organized, introverted

What is the most challenging parts of being a woman-owed business?

Being a female in a male-dominated craft, I have been bracing myself for setbacks and discouragement, but honestly I have received a lot of encouragement thus far. Aside from that, I struggle with trusting that others will see the same value in my work as I do, so it can be hard to put my work out there with confidence.

What’s a typical day like?

Most days are far from typical. But on a given day I could be fulfilling an order request, responding to emails, meeting/collaborating with other small businesses, or distracting myself with new designs.

Describe your design process.

More often than not, the wood just speaks for itself. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true! The grain pattern, knots, cracks, and overall size of the piece I’m working with determine the direction I go.

Step 1. Monika cuts out the spatula shape using an electric hand saw.

Step 1. Monika cuts out the spatula shape using an electric hand saw.

Step 2. Monika sands her wooden spatula until it’s soft and smooth in the  Boreal Design Co.  workshop in Freeport, ME.

Step 2. Monika sands her wooden spatula until it’s soft and smooth in the Boreal Design Co. workshop in Freeport, ME.

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What’s the best part of your day?

Anytime I can be outdoors. I have high hopes that summer this year will be synonymous with “outdoor workshop”.

How do you balance work and life?

Well, I work for myself so I make my own schedule. It’s the best part of being an entrepreneur! Really though, I think it is so important to carve out time for the things you love.

Where is your happy place?

Anywhere in the mountains. Last year we had the opportunity to visit the Bavarian Alps. I love being in the mountains because of the great expansiveness, the potential for adventure and exploration, and the chance to step away from normal, busy life.

Which artists or designers inspire you?

Three people that come to mind are my brother, Meg Gleason of Moglea, and Anna Gregory, a woodworker. These are three people whose work I really admire, and who don’t seem caught up in the latest artistic trends. Their work feels like true creativity that wasn’t borrowed from instagram, and I think we all need a little more of that in our lives. I am also always thinking of floral design, which is another pursuit that I love. I am reminded of flowers when I work with wood because neither one responds well when you try to force it into the vision you had from the beginning. In both cases, I find it much easier to let it come together naturally, because the media has a personality of its own.

Tell us your favorite design.

I have been playing around with more geometric looking boards lately, and I’m really excited with how they’re turning out. I have also been making jewelry, which has been a fun way to use the knots and cracks that normally go to waste.

Monika, applying oil to her geometric walnut cutting board design.

Monika, applying oil to her geometric walnut cutting board design.

Boreal Design Co.  spreaders in walnut, oak and curly maple.

Boreal Design Co. spreaders in walnut, oak and curly maple.

Any advice for young makers?

Don’t let your art be swayed or dictated by social media. It’s so easy to become discouraged by all the trends and other creatives out there. Give yourself space from the online world to let your creative process happen naturally.

Describe your artistic community. How has this community influenced your work, designs, or process?

The creative community in Portland has been super welcoming. It has been so encouraging to move here and feel connected to other makers so quickly. There has been a very direct influence on my work as I have been able to collaborate with other artists and share ideas. They have actively encouraged me in the work I am doing now.

What are your hopes for the FNF Community?

Gathering together! I’ve loved getting to know some of the other FNF artists, particularly in Portland. I hope that everyone can benefit from that same kind of encouragement.

 
Meredith Brockington