For Blake Conner, the owner of Cardinal Creations, every piece of wood has a story. He began carving wood two and half years ago from a tool kit that his fiance bought for him on Amazon. The first piece that he made was a spoon from a piece of wood that he found in Overton Park. He told me that it “didn’t fully resemble a spoon, but I was having so much fun making something usable.” He didn’t even start thinking about selling his spoons until after Blake accumulated so many from practicing and perfecting his craft. He had been familiar with the local maker scene because of his fiance, Brooke Ballard, who owns Janey Bee Jems Handmade Jewelry. (We interviewed her for one of our earlier Small Business Highlights; you can read it here.) So she pushed him to start participating in pop-up events with her. He said that he “fell in love showing people the tools I use and explaining where the specific piece of wood came from. It all has a story, and I love telling stories.” Blake has begun to expand his line of pieces that he offers to include bowls, coffee spoons, vases, decorative plates, and sculptures, so keep an eye out on his Instagram for new items to be released!
Another topic we discussed is how he decides what wood to use for his pieces. “I use wood that I find around town or that is donated to me.” He has to use greenwood, wood that was recently cut, otherwise the wood is harder to carve because it has less moisture in it. The more moisture that’s in the wood, the better it is on his tools. It’s a challenge when it comes to using wood that he finds in the area because he never knows if he will be able to use it until he gets his hands on it. Blake told me that the majority of the wood types he uses are red oak, elm, wild cherry, and hackberry.
Speaking of carving, I asked Blake what the process was like after he finishes designing a piece. Depending on what type of piece it is, the carving can take up to 2 hours. After he finalizes that step, he moves on to preserving it with a mix of Tung and Walnut oils and Beeswax. This helps the wood against wear and tear and keeps the piece in your collection for longer. And sometimes if Blake wants to bring out a deeper color from the wood, he will put the piece in the oven, making the wood appear a more caramel color.
I asked Blake what his favorite type of piece to make was. Even though Blake started making spoons, he said that he loves to make bowls the most. “My most proud makes are bowls. Bowls, even if I decide to use the lathe, take time and a lot of work. There are more things that can go wrong, but when it’s done, there’s just something so cool about it.”
The last question that I had for him was what he loves about being a small business in Memphis. He said , “I just love that there is a supportive community for it. I’ve made some really awesome friends since I started doing this, and I am always happy to see everybody on market weekends!” You can catch Blake and his creations in many pop ups and markets across Memphis, so make sure to keep up with his schedule on his social media.
It was such a pleasure to talk to Blake about his business and the pieces that he has such a passion for. Again here is his Instagram and here is his Etsy. You can follow us on all our social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If you are a small business in Memphis and would like to be featured on our blog, you can email us at email@example.com.