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What it means to be a maker

Jordan Cassidy on building dreams and the “jewellery of the home”
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- Words by Natalie North Photography by Lia Crowe

Veggies and chicks aren’t the only thing growing on this Central Saanich farm. Step behind the barn doors and into Jordan Cassidy’s workshop, where the artist is cultivating his own curiosities and bringing client visions to life.

Alongside his duties as a custom cabinetmaker comes the latest creative challenge: pushing live-edge, resin-pour river tables to the next level for the international yachting market.

Light turquoise-green flows through a rare maple slab destined for the upper sun deck of a prototype vessel, while deeper royal blue waves, whitecaps and golden highlights crash across two smaller tables designed to complement the mahogany paneling of the boat’s interior.

It’s an intense visual depth and bird’s-eye-shoreline effect that Jordan achieves with layer on layer of carefully pigmented resin. Visually stunning and marine-grade to withstand life on the ocean, the project—undertaken last year—was an exercise in both artistic expression and creative engineering for Jordan. The three tables, built from Bigleaf maple sustainably harvested on Vancouver Island, set sail for international boat shows aboard a 26-metre catamaran this winter.

“I love making new things and pushing to learn more in my craft,” says Jordan, who recently collaborated on a guitar with a local luthier, built himself a wood-fired hot tub and kitted out his van for off-grid camping on his journey to examine what it means to be a maker. “There’s the thrill of creating something new, but I also really enjoy the fact that I’m building somebody’s dream. Whether it’s your custom kitchen cabinets or any one-off project, I love the aspect of servitude that I get to engage in. I feel really lucky to do this.”

Long before Jordan was devising a system to remove hexagonal sections from the underside of custom resin tables—replacing them with rigid foam and thin wooden caps to meet the catamaran’s weight requirements without compromising the strength of the slabs—he was honing his skills as a Red Seal cabinetmaker. A life-long builder, Jordan began his formal education in his early 20s, after convincing the most talented cabinetmaker he could find to be his mentor and take him on as an apprentice. It was a monumental phase in the career and personal life of a kid who used to ask for wood and drafting equipment at Christmas.

“From using cardboard cereal boxes to make forts for my action figures to Lego and Meccano, I always liked working with my hands,” he says. “I’ve always been a keen maker, super curious about how wood in particular could be grown, harvested, dried and shaped into all the useful items that help ease the ergonomics of life.”

His resin work and geometric-themed art, like the custom guitar or other creative endeavours he calls the “jewellery of the home,” began later when he had the time and studio space to experiment. Live-edge resin pours evoking rugged coastlines have since found their way into his custom built-in pieces in homes across Greater Victoria, when a client’s needs, style and space allow.

“With the evolution of drone photography and its imagery becoming more readily available, I think that we, as islanders, resonate with aquatic visual concepts that relay the comfort of those spaces where the land meets the water. These are places that the majority of us go to relax and recharge, so bringing that into home furnishings has been a strong and popular movement.”

Jordan’s place in the live-edge resin movement was on display in the OneTree Project, a 2019-20 Bateman Gallery exhibit celebrating the life of a single, salvaged tree by inviting 70 local artists to create from its wood. While this work honours the natural shapes and palettes of the West Coast, Jordan takes a different tack approaching his built-in residential pieces.

“I draw a lot of inspiration from my mentor still, his acuteness in balancing design with function, and from geometric or mathematical laws and formulas,” he says, noting that the tattoo of Dutch graphic designer M.C. Escher’s impossible cube on the inside of his left hand reflects the same foundations. “With cabinetmaking, everything has a hidden function, but visual balance and symmetry also play such a strong role in providing comfortable spaces for the senses—paired with that sharp functionality and proper colour accents. There’s definitely an art to doing it all properly.”

Creating within deliberate parameters and synthesizing a client wish list into a physical manifestation is all a part of the magic of making for Jordan. He’s grown to love the continuity and accountability of working alone, with the exception of his charismatic Husky cross, Melo. Whether long-term clients outfit their homes with a range of his custom millwork, or people call for servicing or upgrading years after an install, the direct personal connection is part of his professional ethos.

But don’t call it a job!

“For me, it’s not just a job,” he says. “Being a maker is my lifestyle. I’m living my life as a woodworker first and foremost. This has always been my dream, and the whole designing and building things that can improve other people’s quality of life has a huge emotional reward for me. I take pride in getting the details aligned with the client’s lifestyle and needs.”

Jordan lives in Victoria and serves custom cabinetry clients on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands from his Central Saanich workshop. Resin pieces can be flat packed and shipped anywhere in the world.

To check out his work, visit Cassidy Woodcraft & Design at: cassidywoodcraft.com.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication
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