Anthony Ross’ home has welcomed nature. Here and there are handcrafted pine and cedar lamps that, as the light of the day gets darker, he switches on. A half sealed handcrafted willow and cedar coffee table sits in the middle of the living room. A red pine log couch lines it. Outside on the patio sits an old weathered cedar bench, grayed by the seasons, and above it swings an old wood bird feeder.
Nature is so ingrained into who he is that it’s not only a part of his décor, but it’s also his hobby and his passion: woodworking. However, what happens when there’s no room for your passion?
Homegrown Minnesotan Anthony Ross, 25, grew up in the small town of Nashwauk, Minn., on Big Sucker Lake.
“I was always out fishing or in the forest surrounded by trees,” Ross said. “All this stuff was always around me and eventually I started looking at it and saying I could make something from it.”
“He was always so connected with everything. It was like the forest and trees spoke to him,” said Anthony’s mother, Sharon Ross, in a phone interview.
Anthony began woodworking when he was 8 years old, making birdhouses for his parents. His grandfather Albert Borelli was a woodworker.
“He always made things for the kids and that was a big influence on me,” Ross said.
Paying for pieces of lumber from wood shop class in 2005, he began making his own cabinets and tables.
“I wanted to make my own things instead of buying them,” Ross said.
In 2009, he used lumber from an old barn to make the bench that still sits on his patio. Woodworking steadily became a hobby and then it became a passion.
In August he moved out of his parent’s place for good. Since then Anthony has lived in a small cabin in Ely and his current Highland Village apartment in Duluth. The lack of space has left a lack of room for woodworking.
“It frustrates me to not have the space. I’ll still monkey around with things, more wall decorations than furniture,” Ross said.
His apartment only allows enough room to make things he can glue and hammer together. He houses his woodworking tools in his garage but with the lack of light, heat and a single outlet, his work is limited.
“I’m not out there as much anymore. You don’t realize you take things for granted until you don’t have it anymore,” Ross said.
Now he spends his days indoors going to classes or studying in the library. In his free time he tinkers with driftwood wall decorations.
“If I had a shop I’d seriously consider doing this for a living, but I don’t,” Ross shrugged.
Jana Bell, a friend of Anthony’s mother, owns a few pieces of his work, including a wine rack and a few Adirondack chairs.
“I first saw his work two years ago. He had some furniture pieces that were just beautiful,” Bell said in a phone interview. “He actually uses pieces he found out in the woods and finishes them in a way that retains the naturalness of the wood.”
His specialty is willow wood furniture pieces with signature agates rocks embedded within. The idea—keep it natural.
“I’d seen other people do some kind of signature on their works. I decided to mix rocks and wood to make mine,” Ross said.
“I find random pieces here and there and put them together. They somehow always end up looking good in the finished piece.”
Each piece is handmade, hand planed, hand glued, clamped and sealed.
“Every piece has its own uniqueness of what it’s going to be,” Ross said. “You have to be willing to take time and slow down to look. It’s not just a rock. It’s not just a tree.”
His mediums of choice are diamond willow and cedar trees.
“I like chipping away at the bark of the willow to uncover the beauty beneath,” Ross said. “But the smell of cedar makes it a toss up.”
From 2007 to 2009 Ross went back home every winter season and eventually turned his parent’s garage into a wood workshop. He began working with big pieces of furniture three years ago.
“This kid can look at a wood log and come up with an entire piece of furniture,” Sharon Ross said.
The red pine log couch in Ross’ apartment highlights his talent with big furniture and holds his favor.
“It’s more complex. It took longer to design and put together in order to make it a couch and not a crappy bench,” Ross said.
It’s his eye for detail with the agates in the armrests and the simple uniqueness of the shape of the wood that makes this piece and his work so interesting to look at.
“He has a way of working the wood and bringing out the beautiful side of it,” Bell said.
“People who have his ability just want to see where their vision can take them,” Sharon Ross said.
With a bit of space who knows where Anthony’s ability will take him.
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