Jeffrey Neil

Media: Wood

Gray, TN

While working full-time as a research engineer, I experimented with various artistic mediums until I found that woodworking brought me the most pleasure.  Woodworking allowed me to use my engineering skills and also expanded my interest in fine crafts.


I have mainly taught myself the pleasures and agonies of working with hardwoods (mostly native species such as maple, cherry and walnut).   Over the past 30 years, I have built a number of furniture pieces for friends and family.  While I enjoy crafting furniture, I find the most challenge in making small heirloom and jewelry boxes.  I have found that many of the same woodworking techniques and skills required for boxes are also used with larger pieces of fine furniture.  Since the heirloom and jewelry boxes are at a smaller scale however, it allows me to circle back to my initial love of attention to fine details and crafts.  Matching the selection of wood for color and grain pattern to complement the box design are challenges I find interesting when both designing and crafting the heirloom and jewelry boxes.  After a career in corporate research, I retired in late 2008 and I am now able to devote myself to my passion for woodworking.


Currently I am designing heirloom boxes using themes taken from traditional quilting blocks, applying the quilt design to the lid using tiles of various woods and also carrying the same quilt block theme into the shape of the box itself.   Luckily, quilters have thousands of traditional quilt blocks to choose from which has allowed my creativity to flow.  While the outside of the heirloom box is devoted to the quilt block theme, the inside is fabric-lined and partitioned into an exquisite jewelry box.


In 2006, I had the opportunity to take a Shaker Box class at the Canterbury Shaker Village in their box-making workshop.  In contrast to my quilt heirloom boxes which may have over 130 pieces of wood, the shaker boxes allow me to delve into the simplicity of a traditionally functional box with only four pieces of wood.   Recently I have also begun incorporating traditional quilt block patterns into many of my shaker boxes which seems a perfect blending of the two craft forms.


Photo Galleries