Crafts & DIY
Blind woodworker gains millions of subscribers for his incredible creations
"Never give in. You can always find a way to do the things you want to do."
Elijah Chan
08.11.22

How can you make something which you can never see?

In a workshop in Washougal, Washington, a craftsman blindly tends to his creation – quite literally.

The workshop, under Furniss Studios, churns out a selection of intricately designed bowls and pots.

These wooden wares possess clean accents like striped wood or “marbled” surfaces.

It’s almost hard to believe that they’re made by a craftsman who can only see his creations in his mind.

John Furniss had a following before TikTok.

However, when he came into the social media site, his creations received a wider audience – just 200,000 shy of 2 million followers.

What sets him apart from other craftsmen is the fact that he’s blind.

He feels the wood by texture, shape, weight, and density. Then he pictures a finished product in his mind before he realizes it with his hands.

Furniss’ journey started in a dark time.

He shared that he had once tried to take his own life. He survived the attempt but was left blind.

His recovery led him to a vocational rehabilitation school in Utah where he learned how to read Braille.

He met a mentor

During his time at the facility, a blind woodworking instructor took him under his wing.

Under the experienced teacher, Furniss learned how to identify wood solely by touch.

Furniss wasn’t a stranger to this craft. In fact, he did it when he still had his sight.

Soon enough, he joined the Emil Fries School of Piano Technology for the Blind where he rebuilt piano sets.

During this time, something spectacular happened.

He met Anni Becker who was painting pianos as a part of a fundraising project. He talked to her and then put his hand on the piano with wet paint.

The two fell in love.

They fondly remembered their first date – harvesting peas in John’s community garden space. They got married in the same place three years after.

Furniss then started a piano-rebuilding business of his own.

While it gave him the opportunity to display his craftsmanship, something inside of him still yearned for the lathe.

He wanted to turn his ethically sourced wood into the marvelous creations he pictured in his mind.

Anni bought him his first lathe.

He got to work immediately and churned out wooden kitchenware like plates, bowls, and mortar and pestles.

He also creates smartphone amplifiers and dreams of making other products like jewelry boxes.

With Anni’s help, Furniss successfully launched his business. Anni handles the social media and digital side of the business, paperwork, and transactions.

Furniss shared that there’s another side after survival.

“Never give in. You can always find a way to do the things you want to do,” he said as quoted in a blog by Patagonia, “Share your blindness with those around you to show that we’re not so different. Sharing your perspective with sighted people can spread awareness.”

Besides creating amazing wood pieces, Furniss also dedicates his time to giving talks about suicide prevention.

@theblindwoodsman

♬ Echidna’s Parade – Alan Gogoll

He shared that if he had a message for his younger self, it would be that tomorrow will come and things can always change – much like raw wood turned into a beautifully crafted bowl.

See the BlindWoodsman feel his way into works of art in the video below!

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

By Elijah Chan
hi@sbly.com
Elijah Chan is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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