A few weeks ago I had the chance to chat with woodworker Jermain Todd of Mwanzi, who repurposes woods and materials headed to landfills to build eco-conscious tables, benches, stools and cabinetry. Watch the video below to listen to his story, check out his studio in STL and see his creations. Pay special attention to how he got started too – an inspiration to anyone thinking about learning a new tradecraft.
What is Mwanzi?
It means “Bamboo” in Swahili. I started off as bamboo flooring and bamboo plywood distributor.
What influenced you to get started and build your tradecraft? Were you formally trained as a woodworker?
I sensed the end of the road for what I was selling due to the poor economy and had to do something. I taught myself woodworking.
What is your favorite piece from your collection you are working on right now? What’s the story behind it?
I have several and each one is a favorite. but the best part about the furniture I build is the unique story behind the raw materials i use. sometimes it’s a piece made from wood salvaged from their own home or from a tree that grew on their own property.
Walk us through your process. How long does it take you to build one piece of furniture?
It depends on what other projects are on deck. I’m generally working on 6-8 projects at the same time, so I have to be very efficient with my time.
A lot of people in the Blavity community are just getting started and aspire to have their own studio or workspace. What has the journey been like for you as an entrepreneur?
It’s been challenging road; Several ups and several downs. Fortunately there were way more ups than downs. and sometimes it’s best to not even recognize the downs. You’ve got to stay focused and have what my mom calls “stubborn faith”. You have to lavish and embrace the fact that you’re going to walk the road by yourself many times. but there will always be good people who will take a risk on you and have faith in you.
You are immersed in the creative and eco conscious communities in St. Louis. Anybody the Blavity family should keep an eye out for?
You need to know about artist Cbabi Bayoc!
For more information about Mwanzi, visit www.mwanzi.com.