1. What is your profession and why did you decide to choose this field?
I am a woodworker. I fell into woodworking when I took a class at a school for the blind in Utah in my mid 20's. My teacher was also blind and taught the class adaptive skills and tools. I took to it naturally and it felt like I had been doing it my whole life. I worked hard at it, using power tools made me very nervous at first. But with a lot of practice over the years, I was able to improve. I used to have sight, so I can visualize my designs in my mind. Even though I am totally blind, this is very helpful for me when navigating the world and navigating my woodshop. I tried finding work for many years, but because I work with my hands and do mechanic type work (car repair, woodworking, etc.), it was difficult to find an employer willing to hire me. I decided to create my own job instead and that's how I ended up as a professional woodworker.
2. What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?
When I am able to turn what I am envisioning in my mind into a real physical object, that is the most rewarding feeling. It's almost like having my sight back. I can visualize this object in my mind and manifest it into reality to show others. It's very validating as an artist and craftsman, especially being blind.
3. What is your advice to all the other VIPs around the world who don’t believe they can be successful in the area of their interest because of their disability?
I'd say don't fall into the trap of comparing yourself with others. You won't have the same gifts another person has, you are totally unique. Use what seems like a disability to your advantage. And give yourself time to grow. Don't be upset if you aren't a master woodturner the first time you pick up a chisel or a head chef the first time you chop an onion. Give yourself grace and practice your craft consistently.