Leaning into challenging spaces is not unfamiliar territory for Char Miller-King. Always up for a challenge, she originally found herself in the hustle and bustle of the corporate world. With a degree in Communications and Public Relations, she worked her way up the ladder, paying her dues, literally and figuratively. Constantly overcoming obstacles as a young woman, she worked ten-fold to earn a salary that could pay off the college debt that haunts most young professionals. After years on the grind, oftentimes up to 80 hours a week, she finally found herself on top. “I had that corner office with the floor-to-ceiling windows,” Char recalls, “I really felt like I made it and I deserved to be there.” However, although she had worked so hard to get where she was, Char recalls a nagging feeling that she just couldn’t kick, “In the back of my mind, all I kept thinking was that I wanted to be home in my garage making stuff.” A hobbyist at the time, Char had been introduced to woodworking years prior from her uncle who is a carpenter. The exposure piqued an interest that followed her around for years until one day, she found herself wanting to make a bed frame for herself. After tackling the build and feeling the pride that came with it, she was hooked.
So, all the while working crazy hours and starting a family, she found time for her passion of woodworking on the weekends. It was never enough and her demanding corporate job was what stood between her and the work she wanted to pursue. “I had no idea how I could make money being a woodworker and I knew I couldn’t just quit my job and leave my husband to pay all the bills,” she recalls.
But as luck would have it, or perhaps divine intervention, Char and her husband were surprised to find out that their family of four was going to get two adorable additions. Char was pregnant with twins and her work-life balance was turned upside down. Committed to her career, Char returned to her corporate office job three months after the birth of her twins only to be surrounded by naysayers and a toxic work environment that left her feeling unenthused for a job that wasn’t really what she wanted to do. “I was mentally and emotionally drained and I couldn’t do it anymore,” she explains. Terrified and without a plan to be a stay-at-home mom, Char found herself at home with her twins. “Life doesn’t always look the way you intended,” she says but “I had always said that I wanted to be home and build.”
A true believer of fate and divine order, Char found the silver lining of her life’s circumstances, and got to work, building in her garage. “I want to be an inspiration and a motivator for other people,” Char exclaims, “because so many people are working jobs that they don’t enjoy doing. They might be making good money which is great. People want that security blanket and I understand that because I had that.” This drive to prove that people can pursue their dreams is the driving force behind Char’s brand, The Wooden Maven, a teaching platform that provides inspiration and education to kids and adults alike to step outside of themselves to explore the possibilities of woodworking and obtain the confidence to do more than they ever thought possible.
Since her launch of Wooden Maven, Char has embraced her community of makers, speaking at events such as WorkBench Con and blogging conferences like Haven, as well as using her very popular Instagram account to connect with brands that are looking to expand their reach with her growing community. “If I can connect people who are passionate about woodworking, so much of my work is done,” says Char. Her infectious enthusiasm and passion for woodworking is something that even amid a pandemic has kept her full steam ahead, exploring the many possibilities that await her. However, in the midst of all the networking and publicity, one true mission stays at the forefront of her journey which is teaching. Through her local maker space, Char has held classes for kids and adults and jumps into every opportunity to help her local schools. One opportunity she remembers fondly, pre-COVID, was when she was asked by a local high school to create a class curriculum for kids with learning disabilities. She spent two weeks with them and by the end, “we were making catapults and launching marshmallows,” Char laughs, “it was amazing...At the end of the day, if all I am doing is teaching a woodworking class every week to a small group of people, I am happy.” Very passionate about vocational education, Char says, “learning with your hands helps you to retain information better which is why making is so important.”
As a mom, she knows the struggles most kids have and taps into her maternal instinct to help motivate them to overcome their fears. “I feel like I give a TED talk to my kids every day,” she laughs, “I want to challenge them to be better and to pursue their passion.” Her work and brand go beyond exposing people to woodworking, it provides a positive introduction to a profession that many young girls and women have felt intimidated by. Her love for the trade and desire to make it accessible to everyone mixed with the fearlessness of leading the way into unfamiliar territory has her breaking down barriers and making connections within an industry that needs her.
All photos courtesy of Char-Miller King