Living the Wellmade Life

Megan Offner

Gives new life to trees and shares them with us

Megan is the owner and co-founder of sustainable wood products company, New York Heartwoods in Kingston, NY. She must get her gumpture from growing up in Missoula, MT, because being a woodswoman is no small feat. She harvests trees sustainably and has a sawmill and kiln and collaborates with local craftsmen to make finished products such as tables, shelving, and chopping boards. She really knows how to bring out the beauty of these incredible trees.
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  • What’s one thing that has surprised you on your path so far?
  • MO
  • How few women there are in the wood products industry!
  • Many of us have done interesting and weird things before we got to where we are now. What were some of your past lives? How did they lead you to the present?
  • 5 1/2 years ago when I spent a week working with Jim Birkemeier of Timbergreen Forestry in Spring Green, WI. I was sick of creating sets for fashion advertising photo shoots and watching most of the production end up in the dumpster. I wanted a livelihood that aimed to regenerate our resources. Jim manages his 200 acres, harvests his dying/diseased trees, and mills them into flooring. The scraps end up as material for smaller products in his store or in his wood stove. There's no waste, the forests benefit, and he has a beautiful and creative life. Who wouldn't want that?!
"Know where your wood comes from. Care where your wood comes from. Buy from sources you trust."
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  • When did you actually start doing what you are doing now as your job? How did you get started?
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  • I came back from Spring Green and within two weeks was introduced to Jed Bark of Bark Frameworks, a fine art framing company in NYC, who had a portable band-sawmill that wasn't in use. My co-founder, Dave Washburn, and I built up trust with Jed and in a few months we were able to start New York Heartwoods with his mill, on his land. I knew that I had found my path as everything fell into place.
  • What is the oddest job you had to take along the way to get by?
  • Harvesting 100 small diameter standing-dead trees in three days so that a faux refugee tent could be constructed in Madison Square Garden for Kanye West's Life of Pablo debut!
  • What daily rituals help get your creative juices flowing?
  • Seven minutes+ of yoga (thanks Kelsey Barrett!) and morning meditation. Getting outside so I can be inspired by the natural world.
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  • What/ who are some of the biggest inspirations on your aesthetic ?
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  • Trees. New York's hardwood forests are not regenerating due to high-grading practices (greed), over-populations of deer, climate change, and exotic insects and plants. And the expansion of human developments means more trees are being cleared and are now contained in urban/suburban environments. When these trees are removed they are often landfilled or mulched. Our mission is to honor the lives of these trees and make the most of the wood that they yield.
  • What’s one piece of advice to someone who has no clue what they want to do?
  • Take classes in things that interest and inspire you. I didn't know what I wanted to do when I started this business. It found me, really, but only after three years of investigating how I might otherwise be living my life, and getting permaculture and sustainable building + design certificates while still doing what I knew I didn't want to do!
  • Who/ What did you come across lately that has been inspiring your work?
  • Lynne Twist and the Pachamama Alliance, whose mission is to protect the sacred headwaters, forests and culture of the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest from oil development by "changing the dream" (our consumer reality).
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  • What are the goals you are still working toward?
  • MO
  • Working out the bugs in our model so we can replicate it for the benefit of other communities. And designing and producing a line of furniture to showcase the amazing wood we have!
  • What are you working on these days? Anything else you want to promote, share, write about in our blog ?
  • We have partnered with Marcus Soto of Sojen Design and will be launching a line of furniture and accessories and an e-commerce site in the coming months. A table we designed will be featured in Fine Woodworking Magazine. Stay tuned!
"Our mission is to honor the lives of these trees and make the most of the wood that they yield"

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