In a maker market that is mostly driven by artists striving to make a name for themselves, Chad Floyd of Chad Floyd Woodworks is finding motivation in a different place.
If we are being honest here, he doesn’t even like having his name in the title of the business.
In fact, honesty is what really defines Chad and his products. He doesn’t have time for fluff, and is not trying to corner any market with the next best thing. He just wants to create an environment where he can be truthful with himself and others, and make the products that he enjoys making while he’s at it. Although he oozes humility, he does not shy away from sharing his story when asked. He understands the importance of his experiences and how they brought him to where he is today. Listen to Chad, and you will quickly learn that he is not just a guy making pretty things out of wood. Chad Floyd Woodworks’ identity can best broken down by the three things that Chad says it is fundamentally focused on.
The Mind of the Maker
Unfortunately, working in vocational ministry can sometimes come with a surprising mix of politics and run-ins with self-serving personalities. There are not many that have the sort of first-hand experience with this that Chad does. When I met him in 2008, he was working as a youth pastor, and altogether he spent about ten years of his life in full time vocational ministry. This was his foreseen career path and it seemed that he was well on his was way, until a series of hurtful and confusing events over the course of years culminated in him stepping away from the field all together. These were all very real and pivotal situations to him. “I didn’t leave it. It was stolen from me,” Chad explained, sharing an event where a pastor told lies about his character to push him out. “It’s important for me that I share that very clearly…People at both churches that fired me used language like ‘He’s moving on to other things’ or ‘He left and we wish him well’ but the truth was that I wasn’t moving. I was frozen. My life was ending. You know?” Chad wants people to know that events like this “aren’t casual, they aren’t inconsequential, they gravely change lives”. A lot of trust and vulnerability gets built within a church family, and in his case, abuse of these things led to Chad feeling abandoned, hurt, and confused about his self-worth. He spent months in somewhat of an emotional standstill.
About three years ago, sometime near the end of his days working for churches and in the midst of battling with his own character and identity, Chad began small bits of woodwork. This first came mostly in the form of hand carving various items to keep him occupied, but it soon began to grow and expand to much more. In a relatively short period of time he was building everything from dining room furniture to whiskey boxes for wedding gifts. After what he had experienced, this work with his hands jump started what he describes as a healing process for his mind. One that is still going on to this day. Every time he works, he feels that he is driving back the things that his previous career left him believing about himself. Those lies still try to rattle him, but he finds that woodworking gives him time to focus in, find peace, and continue the slow process of reclaiming his mind and identity. This is perhaps the most important and unique part of Chad’s story, and one that is critical to share. The sort of transparency he displays in its telling shines throughout his entire body of work.
The Hearts of the Abandoned
This same work has made it possible to fund multiple trips to Honduras where Chad and his wife spend time pouring love into the lives of orphans. This is a large part of their own lives, and something he has been doing long before he ever picked up a chisel or a saw; for as long as he was in vocational ministry and longer. They spend most trips at Orphanage Emmanuel, a Christian organization whose mission is to instill faith in orphans, and to equip them with life skills and abilities relevant to the surrounding culture. It is located in Guaimaca, a mountainous region of Honduras and at any given point has about 600 kids and 20 staff members staying there. Chad and his team come in to interact with the kids and to bring relief to the staff, who as you can imagine, have no shortage of work between them with such great numbers.
One of Chad’s greatest strengths is his ability to approach and relate with teenagers and children. These are skills that he was able to sharpen through years of working with youth both at home and abroad. Connection with the kids is very important, so he tries to find and train people who can really understand the type of culture they are stepping into. This is so that they can be proactive and intentional with the kids. He shared stories with me of the rifts that can be created when someone forgets to leave their American mindset at home, and it is easy to tell that it could make the difference between making or breaking a connection. The team wants to be able to engage with every type of personality while they visit, because it is hard for every child to be given a share of time on a daily basis. Simply giving these kids time can make a world of difference in their lives. Seeking to reach the hearts of orphans is perhaps more a part of Chad than it is a part of Chad Floyd Woodworks. He finds it imperative to share with people that although a portion of the business helps to support this long standing part of his life, it is only a piece of what makes the business whole.
The Forgotten Materials
There are numerous artists out their using reclaimed wood materials to create beautiful pieces, but not many use these materials in the distinctly personal way that Chad does. There is a certain level of ease and transparency that comes out in most of his work that you simply do not see very often. This is not to say that it is lazy or lacking, no. Chad definitely puts in the work (Evident by the fact that we had to schedule our interview over a month in advance). I am only trying to somehow put in to words the intimacy and intentionality that can be seen in even his most simple pieces. When I walked up to his shop area, the first thing that caught my eye was the massive pile of recently taken apart pallets mixed in with various other pieces of previously discarded wood. In a shed in the back is a collection of timber drying out and being stored for later use. Chad sometimes spends whole days just taking discarded materials apart so that he could dig up the pieces that make up his work. He makes it a point to use as much unwanted material as he can, often even putting in the extra work to create wood shavings for packaging purposes. In fact, only about five to ten percent of his materials comes from new pieces of wood. As a result, you’ll find a lot of rough edges and unique grains in his work; no one piece alike. This process of giving discarded, hurt, or broken things new life and purpose is truly what brings all of Chad’s work full circle.
So where is Chad Floyd Woodworks heading?
Chad says that there is a quote by Henry Ford that sums it up pretty well: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses’.” He always wants to be creating something new, and something that challenges him. Most of all he wants to be creating something that is honest. At the end of the day I spent at his shop, we ended up behind his home building an open fire and making some pretty excellent eats over it while our dogs chased each other around the yard. Spend some time around Chad and you will quickly realize that even when he is pulling long hours, this sort of calm, ease, and simplicity is what really characterizes him and his brand. It is honest and devoid of unnecessary things. It is careful, yet unapologetic. The key parts of his beliefs did not come from his business, but rather his business came from a place where these pieces could meet and form a pathway forward. And forward is the only direction that Chad is looking.