I am based in Georgia along with Highland Woodworking's brick and mortar location, and when I discover another female woodworker in my state, I feel a special connection. With so few women being involved with woodworking, beyond weekend DIY projects, it is important to highlight the intense detail that goes into the businesses they have created from the ground up. This month's feature is a hidden gem in my book. She brings a unique set of skills to the table that were developed in her home country, Korea, combining her oil painting skills and intense passion for building. Victoria Kim of Kingsland, Georgia, and owner of The Fine Rustic is the epitome of artistic inspiration for both men and women.
Victoria Kim specializes in helping her customers' dreams come true, no matter how large the project. Her claim to fame is her massive farmhouse tables and deluxe dog kennels. What makes these pieces so unique? The details. It is the details that always matter, from milling to welding her own metal. Victoria matriculated through a school for children, hand selected for their artistic talents. Before moving to the United States from Seoul, Victoria was an oil painter and created characters and environments at video game studios. With a background steeped in design and blending mediums, Victoria has become a master at mixing her own stain colors. Often, she utilizes more than one type of wood species in a project which subsequently accept stain differently. From a single customer photo she can recreate any color!
About seven years ago, Victoria began to source old furniture from Craigslist to upcycle using drills and paint brushes. Anyone with a heart to make only stays at a certain level for so long; and here the true path to building began. It all started with a desk. That is usually the gateway project to a lifelong love of working with wood. Her first project was a desk for her husband. The desk turned out amazing and from there she began creating other pieces for her home. Knowing that you can only make so much for yourself, she began advertising her services and after a few months she could not keep up with the number of orders that were coming in so quickly.
It was the moment when her customers began to share how much they adored her craftmanship that she knew that building furniture was what she was meant to do. Her projects have included a 6 foot long herringbone dining room table with a paired bench, several sliding door dog kennels, two 84" console tables with thick antique legs, a 46" square coffee table, two side tables and nightstands. She's nailed it every time!
With a simple sketch of her stylus, Victoria creates what she thinks her clients want, "I try to envision new ideas that I haven't seen that I would like to bring to life and then I take to sketching it out and see if I can make it take shape physically or not." Her goal is quality at any cost, by any cost that might mean scrapping an entire project. There have been times when she has completed a beautiful flattop table only to awaken to a twisted and bowed slab. Understanding that wood can have a mind of its own and be unpredictable at times can help prepare any maker for the unexpected.
Most of her furniture is made with pine, although working with hardwoods is done on occasion when she is making epoxy tables. Hardwoods, such as hickory and maple, are denser and can tolerate the intense pressure and exothermic reaction that occurs as two types of polymers are combined for strength and durability. Victoria is in the process of creating multiple epoxy river style tables. Their fascinating beauty that defies what we think wood can do draws people into recreating real life scenes through woodworking. The Fine Rustic plans to hold a big opening event soon to showcase her custom designs.
You can imagine that constructing massive furniture like Victoria requires specific tools. She states, "I have too many to name". Her go to assistants are a massive 8" shop fox jointer, a Grizzly anniversary bandsaw, a Festool track saw, and a few hand planes. Among the one she despises the most is the jointer. Changing the blades on a jointer is necessary for achieving squareness albeit tedious. We can jump into a debate here about what is considered fine woodworking, but there is no argument that those who possess the skills to fine tune a machine without error are true craftspeople!
Often, the most challenging project a builder can dive into can be the one that turns out to be the most epic. Since Victoria runs her business full-time, she has the bandwidth to take on projects such as the 10-foot herringbone table she made this year. Determining how much support you need for a table that size is more about numbers than wood. Too little support and the table will sag over time. To combat this potential failure, several support beams and iron brackets were added.
It is difficult to select one thing that makes Victoria stand out, but her perspective on being a woman in a male dominated field is golden.
"There have been many times I get messages from men exclaiming that my prices are too high or that they can do it better... Still I believe being a woman and a builder is a positive thing. Only a woman understands how important furniture is to women. The slightest detail or color can change the whole design and feel of a piece and I feel that being a woman makes me more aware of these things that seem like no big deal but really are."