Alright. Tell us just who exactly is behind Wild Willy’s Woodshop?
My name is William Robert Fegan the Second. I just turned 29-years-old. I'm from Bergen County, New Jersey, and I've been living in Brooklyn for five years.
And what exactly led you toward craftsmanship, specifically woodworking? William Robert Fegan the Second has some deeply rooted values about hard work.
There's definitely a spirit inside of me that brought me to this work. My father was a roofer and built quite a few decks in his day; so, in that aspect, hard work is deeply ingrained in our family. I’ve always enjoyed hands-on work too. My first job was at a bike shop and there's just something about working on a project from start to finish that's very satisfying.
That perspective is what brought Willy’s Woodshop to life.
My woodshop was born out of my curiosity to create items for my own living space, like what I had seen in books, magazines and online. At the start, I was working for a very skilled carpenter and would borrow his tools on the weekends to knock out my own projects. The first thing I made was a herringbone-style headboard made from pallet wood and other recycled lumber. I posted a few pictures online, which led to my first clients my way. Now here I am, three years later.
Three years of experience under your belt, how would you describe your work now?
My work is in a constant state of progression, but I do like to stick with refined and utilitarian rustic themes. My creations really just start with a vision; you have to be able to creatively visualize a final product and make it happen, then along the way, you deal with the intricacies and speed bumps. I think my work is unique because I bridge the gaps between custom woodwork, carpentry, and art--while keeping an open mind during the process. Thinking outside of the box can help you build better boxes.
What is it like to be a craftsman in today’s culture?
We’re definitely in a time where interest in trades is at an all-time low; some people want to pay the same price for a custom-built piece that they would pay at Ikea. But I think working hard and staying humble still goes a long way in today's society. Pursuing a craft like carpentry means you have to be ready and willing to take on new challenges, be consistent and show great pride in your work. My goal is to keep proving myself in the field, to gain the knowledge, skills (and tools!) to do the best work I can.
You’ve got the added challenge of pursuing your craft in the middle of New York City. What’s that like?
Yeah, working in New York City comes with its own set of challenges. Setting up or delivering items can be a nightmare due to tight hallways and lack of elevators. (I haven't had to deliver anything with a crane yet!) It's the city that never sleeps, and clients don't want to hear that you have your own schedule. If you want the money, you have to keep up with some pretty demanding deadlines. And of course, finding an inspiring space to work out of can be quite frustrating as well; but I'm very happy with Red Hook workshop, and I’ve been there eight months now.
All that said, for me, New York is a hub of inspiration. I'm friends with a ton of highly creative and interesting people that fuel my passion for my craft. Plus, there are so many opportunities to learn from and vibe with craftsmen and artists at your own level and beyond.
So New York is inspiring. What else inspires your process?
Salvaged materials is a huge source of inspiration, and that's how I got started in the wood game. It's interesting to line up a bunch of old beams and see all the hammer marks, nail holes, and old mortises left behind from another craftsman a century ago. From dumpster-diving in Bushwick to feeding boards out of the second story of a barn in Vermont, salvaging adventures are never-ending. Plus I love when a client gets just as excited as I do about where the wood originated.
Salvaging adventures? Like what?
Last summer I took a trip to Vermont to build a bed for a close friend. When I arrived we decided to go on Craigslist and see if we could get our hands on some old barn wood. Within five minutes, I was on the phone with a woman who had a whole ash tree cut in 1" thick slabs sitting in the loft of her barn. She informed us that, when her family first settled the land, each property owner was given a plot of trees by the river that they could mill for personal use, and all the wood was from one of those trees! We ended up building a king-sized platform bed with floating nightstands coming out of the live edge headboard, and walked away with a cool story.
It must be great to work with clients who enjoy the art behind the process.
I love when people find me on social media and they want a piece because of something they saw that they liked and appreciated. It could be a king sized bed with a massive headboard, like the bed I made for my friend; an artsy geometric mural piece; or a simple bench--but there's something about it that jumps out at them and says, "This is for me. I'm gonna call this guy." When a client reaches out to me, it's usually because they have vision for something they want that they haven't been able to find. That means they are trusting me to execute it. Working with people is an ever-evolving, really exciting process.
Image by Tim Kuratek
What are some projects you’ve worked on?
Some recent projects I'm proud of are The Good Room, a nightclub in Brooklyn; Tauk restaurant in Montauk; and the Beach House in Rincon, Puerto Rico. If you go to check any of them out, tell them Wild Willy sent you.
Where can we see more of your work?You can check me out on all social media platforms @wildwillyswoodshop. I post daily on Instagram and I'm working on some video content as we speak, so look out for that. And thanks for hanging out with me.