Meet Bruce Harrison, Artisan – Knot ‘n Butt Wood

by Stacy Underhill

Bruce Harrison in his workshop making a heart shaped box.

If you’ve been to a market or craft sale in the past year, chances are you’ve come across Bruce Harrison of Knot ‘n Butt Wood. His tall stature and twinkling smile are surpassed only by his booming voice and personality – and the quality of the wooden pieces he creates.

Bruce makes a variety of wooden jewellery and trinket boxes, bowls, plaques, candle holders, cutting boards, platters, signs, and more, as well as special order commission pieces.

He describes his work as functional yet funky, which can be seen in the photos here. The style of his piece’s ranges from artsy and whimsical to more traditional designs such as men’s valet boxes. Often his boxes contain unexpected shapes and hidden drawers and pull-outs.

Bruce recently moved to Miramichi from Fredericton. His grandparents and mother were from Loggieville and he’s happy to be living in Miramichi where he has fond memories of visiting as a kid.

Being a fan of Bruce’s work, I asked him a few questions about what he does.

Describe your process, of creating a piece, from inspiration to finish.
I get an idea for a design and work it out on my sketch pad first. Then I go through my wood and see what would work the best. Sometimes the inspiration comes from the wood itself. I look for wood with character; look at the piece for awhile, hold it in my hands and decide what would do this piece justice and bring out its unique qualities and beauty.

My main tools are the deep throat band saw and a large scroll saw. I laminate pieces of wood into blocks, then go on to the sanding and finishing.

What types of wood do you like to use?
I prefer to use locally grown wood such as maple, birch, oak and apple. The more character the better such as curly, birdseye maple, live edge or an interesting grain.

When did you start woodworking?
I have always worked with my hands since I was a kid but started with wood in my early twenties. My first piece was a simple plaque with an Irish verse. I remember living in an apartment in downtown Fredericton and started carving in my bedroom. What a mess; at least the room mates thought so. There was saw dust and shavings all over (he says with a grin).

How has your woodworking evolved over the years?
I took a basic and advanced wood turning course at the NB College of Craft and Design in Fredericton about 30 years ago when they had the huge woodshop. Other than that, I’ve been self-taught in many techniques.
For years I built furnishings such as coffee tables, deacon benches and jelly cupboards. After years of that I became bored and decided to get more creative and funkier and took to making the art pieces. I like having hidden elements to a piece, like secret drawers or incorporating shapes from nature, as in the leaf bowls.

Is your family artistic/creative?
My mother did paintings late in life and my grandfather did detailed rug hooking and woodworking. My father was a very talented musician and played the trumpet in a large band, so I guess the arts do run in the family.

Why do you do what you do?
Its my enjoyment, or a mental yoga, I love that you never know what the piece of wood will give you, and there’s the satisfaction of creating something unique. It is important to enjoy yourself and love what you do. I was lucky that I found my passion early in life, but everyone has a talent, its yours to find.

Bruce’s work can be viewed on his Facebook page: Knot-N-Butt Wood Bruce Harrison, and inquiries to purchase pieces can be made there. He will be participating in the Miramichi Art Studio Tours this summer (July 25-26) welcoming everyone to come and visit his workshop in Derby on those days. He also sells at the Newcastle Farmer’s Market on Friday’s and in the summer, he is at the Newcastle Friday Night markets, Downtown in the Square.

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