Twenty-Year-Old Woodturner Takes Her Craft to the Next Level

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woodturning

Katie Stofel in her woodworking shop in Columbia, Tennessee; Photo by Nick Bumgardner

At 20 years old, Columbia woodturner and entrepreneur Katie Stofel is already well on her way to building a successful business. Since her first woodworking project at age 14, Stofel has opened an online shop, sold her work in partnership with local businesses and completed an overseas internship with a world-renowned woodturner. Now studying at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, she plans to eventually make woodturning her full-time job.

It all began when Stofel’s grandfather sparked her interest in woodworking, encouraging her to use the collection of tools he had gathered over the years. Motivated to learn more, she started watching woodworking videos on YouTube and creating a few small projects of her own. But her hobby developed into a passion the day her grandfather taught her how to turn a baseball bat.

“I just immediately fell in love with it,” Stofel says. “[Woodturning] is quiet. Every cut is thought out before being performed. It’s more of an art than anything else.”

Photo by Nick Bumgardner

One day, she saw her grandfather coming up the driveway with an 18-wheeler Frito Lay truck behind him. He dug out holes for the tires, secured it in the ground and presented Stofel with her new makeshift studio.

“It’s made a perfect shop for woodworking,” Stofel says. The truck-turned-workshop also inspired the name for her growing business – Frito Woodworking.

Over the next few months, she filled her shop with tools from yard sales, tried out new projects and continued absorbing as much information as possible from YouTube.

See more: Why L.C. King Manufacturing is a True Tennessee Company

woodturning

Photo by Nick Bumgardner

Crafting a Career

About a year after turning her first baseball bat, Stofel discovered the Duck River Woodturners, a Columbia-based woodturning club. She found inspiration in the work of more experienced artisans, who held demonstrations, invited her into their workshops to turn and showed Stofel how far she could go as a woodturner.

“I just kind of skyrocketed from there into this love and passion for woodturning – and I wanted to learn everything I could. You can never know enough about it,” Stofel says.

She began attending woodturning classes and symposiums while turning everything from bowls and pizza cutters to scoops for coffee and ice cream. At first, her pieces sold by word of mouth alone until two local businesses stepped in and took an interest in her work. When she started selling kitchen items at Savory Spice Shop in Franklin, the chef from Biscuit Love stopped by, saw her biscuit cutters and coffee scoops, and asked for Stofel’s business card.

woodturning; coffee scoops

Coffee scoops made by Katie Stofel; Photo by Nick Bumgardner

“That’s when I figured out this could actually become a full-time job at some point in the near future,” Stofel says. She then started a website and online shop, began selling at local craft shows and dove into the business side of woodturning.

As an entrepreneur, pinpointing the products she wants to sell has presented one of the biggest challenges to establishing her business. While Stofel enjoys turning bowls and other artistic pieces, her favorite items to make are the ones she knows people will use in their everyday lives.

“I really strive to make purposeful products,” she says. “If I do make a bowl, I want people to actually fix salad or fruit in it or even eat their cereal out of it every morning – just use it.”

See more: 4 Places to Find Local Leather Goods

Photo by Nick Bumgardner

Learning from the Best

Since starting her business, Stofel’s love of woodturning has led to opportunities she never imagined possible, including an internship in Ireland with world-renowned woodturner Glenn Lucas, who responded to her email inquiry about internship opportunities with an invitation to visit and work with him for a month. Under Lucas’ guidance, Stofel honed not only her craft but also her business and productivity skills.

“It opened my eyes to how this could actually turn out to be a really nice business,” Stofel says. “If I hadn’t done that internship with Glenn, I don’t think my business would be where it is today.”

Photo by Nick Bumgardner

Attributing much of the success she’s had to her woodturning mentors, Stofel encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to put themselves out there and get in touch with experts in their fields.

“YouTube doesn’t show it all,” she says. “Try to reach out to someone who has been successful in that business. Ask if you can come to the shop and watch the person doing what they love.”

Now off at college pursuing a marketing degree, Stofel intends to apply everything she learns in the classroom to her Frito Woodworking business. She plans to continue selling her work while completing her studies and saving up for a more permanent studio space after graduation.

Shop Frito Woodworking

Interested in purchasing pieces from Frito Woodworking? Contact Stofel at fritowood@hotmail.com, find her on Instagram at @fritowoodworking or visit these Middle Tennessee locations:

Savory Spice Shop:

324 Main St., Franklin, TN 37064

(615) 472-8980

Biscuit Love, Nashville:

316 11th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37203

(615) 490-9584

Biscuit Love, Franklin:

132 3rd Ave. S., Franklin, TN 37064

(615) 905-0386

2 Comments

  1. Donna Weeks

    December 3, 2019 at 9:33 pm

    Plz send me your catalog

    • Jessy Yancey, managing editor, Tennessee Home & Farm

      December 5, 2019 at 8:26 am

      Hi Donna, you’ll need to request a copy of Tennessee Home & Farm magazine from your local Farm Bureau office. You can find one here: https://www.tnfarmbureau.org/county-offices

      Best,
      Jessy

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