As part of our continuing “Living an Artful Life” series we are featuring Ephraim artist John Raymond this week. In addition to 2016 marking our 20th anniversary, this year we are also celebrating John’s 15 years working as an Ephraim artist. His innovative ideas, thoughtful design work and unparalleled craftsmanship were utilized in the glazing department initially, but more recently John has been the inspirational force behind our woodworking studio. He moved away from the glazing department and developed the wood shop in 2013. Currently, John designs and produces all of the wood items we offer. Clearly the way in which John lives – which is to spend his time taking care of his old farmstead, exploring the way things work, collecting objects of intrigue and building his own (anything) with his bare hands – directly supports his mastery of woodworking.



When did you first begin to explore woodworking?

It has been a long time! In high school I helped take down an old barn for my Aunt. She gave me some of the barn boards and I used them to build shelves & furniture. At that time my buddies would come over and say “let’s go do something” and I would be too busy working with my dad’s tools, the lathe and such, to socialize. Eventually they started to say “Raymond is always in the basement doing something”.


What is it about your collected jeeps and old bicycles that originally sparked your interest?

Well after I graduated from high school I decided to do 2 years of automotive training and 2 years of art. The automotive coursework was focused on theory and that really fit well for me. I like gasoline engines and built a high end double engine go-cart when I was 15. Once I had my driver’s license my interest grew. A friend returned to Cambridge (WI, my hometown) with a jeep and I completely fell in love. While my parents were away for the weekend one time I bought a jeep of my own. I had to bring it home on a wrecker, but had it running in weeks. My love of bikes also goes back to high school when 10 speeds were the new cool thing. I bought my first bike in ’72 for $200, a very good bike at the time. I then started to collect vintage bikes.


John maintains the woods and trails on his land, has planted a Christmas tree farm and has a sizable wood collection to draw from. His frisky dog, Coco, is a dedicated companion.


John converted the original pig barn into useable storage for gardening tools and built a rain water collection system on the structure.

What are your next projects?

What I enjoy most is a challenge. I really thrive on designing, building and testing. Attending shows and viewing antiques spurs my imagination. Basic clean design work, like Stickley designs, appeal to me. I do not care for overly decorative work. At Ephraim I am always looking into ways of improving my wood designs. One example is with the tile stands – it would be great if I could come up with a folding tile stand that would ship flat.  At home I still have the go-cart I built as a teen in the attic. Someone wanted to buy it recently, but I couldn’t let it go. Probably in retirement I will work on it again.


The southern WI land surrounding John’s place (and also the Ephraim Pottery studio & wood shop) is biodiverse, healthy and very green in the warm months. It is truly an easy place to live connected with nature.