Rocking red flannel, Dave Marcoullier, a San Francisco-based woodworking designer, was dressed like a true lumberjack when I showed up to take a tour of his studio. Passing gigantic Burning Man iron monuments that were displayed behind a fence outside, I was led into a warehouse that sheltered a world of more peculiar sculptures and organized chaos. I felt like I was in an abandoned carnival tucked away inside a hoarder’s ultimate dream maze. I was in a place that’s the second home for over 250 artists, blacksmiths, inventors, creative minds, and in Dave’s words, “mad scientists.” I didn’t spot anyone right away, but I heard banging, drilling, and faint shouting throughout the warehouse space. A dog brushed pass me, and Dave immediately told me how friendly she was.
Stacks of random puzzle pieces of wood, metal, found items, car parts, and other bits and bobs were everywhere. I couldn’t decipher what objects they once were, but I had a feeling their future life would be interesting. I was officially Alice in a very, very different wonderland.
Dave was “the guy in the corner with the loud machines.” His space was positioned in the back – where his power tools and materials waited to be played with. My eyes couldn’t focus on just one thing because there was so much to look at. Wood pieces, big and small, tall and short, skinny and wide – were sprinkled along the walls and stored inside of trash cans. There was a huge cargo container placed in the corner, the inside was cleverly morphed into another mini workshop within his workspace, where more tools, gadgets, and machines were proudly displayed. I recognized his designs that were scattered under and on top of tables, all of them at different stages: just started, almost done, completed masterpiece.
From his Infill Fanicle Table to his City Skyline Wooden Routing, Dave’s intricate designs are truly uncommon and make a charming addition to any space. Read on to learn more about this maker and get a glimpse at his unforgettable creative space.
Where do you find inspiration within this space?
I’m inspired by the chaos and energy in this building. From hoarders to mad scientists, and everything in between, there are a lot of people here doing a lot of different things. I’m the guy in the corner with the loud machines.
What are your most essential tools?
The table saw is the center of my shop, but the CNC router is the epicenter. Everything that leaves my shop spends some time on the router bed. Other notables – ear protection, music and podcasts, a triangle, and a tape measure.
Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
Down time is usually unplanned. Some days I hit the ground running and don’t look up until it’s time to go home. Other days I pace or pause between tasks, knolling and tidying. Some days I wander through the workspace and end up somewhere on the other side.
What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
Nothing works perfectly the first time. I now accept and expect problems and trials with every first attempt. Life and work are a series of mistakes and corrections. Rarely do you get it right on the first take.
How did you come up with the concept of your product?
I’m a serial dabbler. I was experimenting with a handheld shop router, cutting designs in relief into wood, which led to intentional designs I would cut by hand with the router. With increased demand I eventually bought a small CNC router, and then a larger one. It was an organic and progressive process for me.
What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Less talk, more rock. I tiptoed into many new experiences and decisions, sometimes over deliberating. Have more trust in yourself and don’t worry about the hiccups.
How do you set goals for yourself?
I believe in lists. I keep a running list of bite-sized goals and tasks that need to be completed within a window of days and weeks. I also have broader lists of design ideas and plans for business growth that I need to keep checking in on as the months progress. Finally, I have those big, hairy goals that I let marinate in my brain, keeping me dreaming about things that seem almost out of reach.
How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Immediately and always.
What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood.” -Daniel Burnham
I don’t think I’d be where I am today if I didn’t have larger plans for myself. Being self employed by making things was always a huge goal of mine, but I had no idea how I’d ever get there. It’s good to get riled up and make bold plans.
What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
Currently, wood turning on the lathe, welding, and metal casting.
I often try to kickstart creativity with heightened focus or by visiting art blogs and museums, but I’ve found this rarely works for me. Most of my creativity arrives unannounced and often at inopportune times. I usually stop what I’m doing to focus on it. It’s important. It’s the fertilizer of my work.
Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
Ultimately, the greatest collaborator of my work is my wife. She has a strong instinct for design that I trust. I bounce all my new ideas off her and take her suggestions seriously. My wood shop is within a small collective of about a half dozen craftspeople, and this collective is within a giant warehouse of about 250 people. My shop mates are metal workers, blacksmiths, glass artists and engineers, which means I’m exposed to other crafts and ways of working. It’s helpful that when I need to venture into metal work there is usually someone to help me, and I them. I thrive in solitude but need bursts of interaction.
This isn’t in San Francisco at all- it’s American Steel Studios in Oakland. Why does it say SF?
You’ve got a sharp eye! Dave lives in San Francisco’s Mission District.
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What if I wanted a Minneapolis skyline? Or St. Paul?
The Minneapolis Skyline is available in the Large Wooden Routing. You can get it here: http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/wood-skyline-routing-large
Unfortunately, St. Paul isn’t available at this time. Thanks for asking!