Make It Your Own in Northeast Indiana with Bryce Roebel

By: Ashley Spranger on September 9th, 2019

Woodworker Shares Passion for Community, Craft

Northeast Indiana boasts many opportunities for its residents. Whether you want to build a family, attend a four-year university, create art or start a company, it allows for all different walks of life to Make It Your Own in Northeast Indiana.

Bryce Roebel, a native of Fort Wayne, grew up with an interest in the arts and has turned that interest into an entrepreneurship endeavor, putting his woodworking skills to use here in Northeast Indiana.

1. Tell me a bit about your upbringing and how you got to where you are today.

I was born and raised in Fort Wayne. I always had an interest in the arts and went to a magnet school at Weiser Park, Memorial Park and South Side High School, which emphasized the arts. I was always making things with my hands when I was growing up, including painting, drawing, photography, bookmaking, jewelry making…almost anything. My parents and my teachers were instrumental in giving me the support and resources to explore my passions. With that, I went to college for art history and studio art at New York University with the goal of working in the museum industry as a career. I worked for a few years after college at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art before moving to Indianapolis and then to Lafayette where I received my MBA from Purdue University. I returned to Fort Wayne with my wife and kids in 2012 after a career shift to the banking and finance industry as a credit analyst and then as a commercial banking relationship manager. I love living in Fort Wayne with my wife, Liz, and my kids, Ava and Colin. We are close to our parents and extended family, our kids are growing up in a wonderful city and we enjoy the amazing growth of Fort Wayne.

2. It sounds like you have experimented with many forms of art, what made you get started in woodworking?

I got started in woodworking in somewhat of a cliché way for woodworkers. I bought a house and needed to build and fix things. That led to researching DIY blogs and YouTube for how-to videos on things like building garage storage, fixing trim and other projects around the house. DIY blogs and YouTube are the gateways to the woodworking rabbit hole, as you think, "I can build that DIY bench or bookshelf for cheaper than I can buy it in the store (consequently after spending tons of money on new tools and materials)." For me, DIY furniture turned into more fine woodworking as I explored more and more about the craft. I've invested in my hobby over the past 5-6 years and I have a nice little shop. The satisfaction of woodworking for me is that it gives me the creative outlet I had as a kid and young adult, which I don't have in my finance career. I can make a box, bowl or piece of furniture as a gift or for my website and know I created that out of nothing but basic materials.

 

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Got distracted by cleaning the shop this afternoon and installing some LED lights in my #handtoolcabinet . . . . . . . . . . #workbench #shoporganization #shopsunday #handtools #handplanes #powertools #hybridwoodworking #woodworking #woodshop #woodcraft #workshop #woodworker #woodwork #handmade #handcrafted #indiana #fortwayne #fortwayneindiana #fortwaynewoodworking #myfortwayne #mfptribe #mfpbehindthescenes #iammakerminded #webuiltathing #neipride

A post shared by Bryce Roebel (@bryceroebel) on Aug 4, 2019 at 3:46pm PDT

3. You mentioned your career as a commercial banking relationship manager, how do you juggle your daytime job and woodworking?

I've actually had a harder time juggling my job and my hobby in the last year than at any other time, but I try to work on both a personal project or a commission at least once a week. I usually get an hour or two in the shop, once or twice a week, after we put the kids to bed which is my stress reliever and keeps me grounded. If I have a large commission to complete, my wife understands if I spend a few more hours in the shop to get it done, which is a blessing. You need the support of your family with any involved hobby or side hustle.

4. What is life like as an entrepreneur and artist in Northeast Indiana?

Life as an artist/craftsperson in Northeast Indiana is an interesting combination of a number of factors. There is a ton of emotional and intellectual support for makers in the area, but pricing work is difficult as the area has a low cost of living and price expectations for handmade furniture and goods can be out of sync with the cost of materials and time involved. My work can be seen as expensive to some people, and that's why my Instagram is so focused on the process of my work. I try and showcase the time and skill needed to craft handmade items. I'm blessed as a woodworker as Northeast Indiana is full of beautiful natural materials for me to use. I try to source all of my wood and lumber as locally as possible—the selection and quality of hardwoods in the area is exceptional. My first preference is to use urban logs from aging trees or when land is cleared for development in order to keep the logs out of the landfill or keep from being turned into mulch. I've sourced trees from neighbors, friends and even from the biosolids site in Fort Wayne to make my work. If I need more consistent sources for a project, I purchase hardwood from Holmes & Company in Columbia City and Wibles U Pick Em in Kendallville. These local sources get most of their lumber from regional sources as well, so 90% of my materials are probably from Northeast Indiana.

5. What are some larger projects you have done?

The largest single project I've completed is loft beds for both my son and daughter, which was a fun challenge. A recent large project was a custom mantel for a friend's new house, which was fun but also stressful as it’s a permanent fixture for my friend's family and I wanted it to be perfect. The largest project was a series of 19 pen and box sets I completed for the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and the Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana. These were gifts for a Japanese delegation and for the Governor of Indiana Eric Holcomb!

6. The Regional Partnership recently launched the regional brand Make It Your Own, how do you make it your own in Northeast Indiana?

The best part of Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana right now is that you can make it your own in so many ways. I've found "my own" through a combination of my career in banking that supports local businesses and local growth through lending for capital improvements and new job growth, my family that feels at home and invested in the community, and my woodworking that connects me to so many amazing local makers through Instagram who weld, paint, garden, build, install, knit, knot, draw, photograph and make. This community is full of creative people that make it their own every day and it inspires me to keep making. 

 

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So I teased last month that my last commission was for a special recipient and I’m happy to have finally got the pictures from the presentation ceremony to @govholcomb and other special recipients as part of the Sagamore of the Wabash here in Fort Wayne in June. I was very honored to have been chosen to make a custom pen and box set for the Governor of Indiana and other special guests that day. It’s a crazy feeling to think my pen might be used to ink the future of Indiana. . . . . . . . . . . . #handtools #handplanes #powertools #hybridwoodworking #woodworking #woodshop #woodcraft #workshop #woodworker #woodwork #handmade #handcrafted #indiana #fortwayne #fortwayneindiana #fortwaynewoodworking #myfortwayne #mfptribe #mfpbehindthescenes #iammakerminded #webuiltathing #neipride #penturning #hoosier #boilermaker

A post shared by Bryce Roebel (@bryceroebel) on Jul 22, 2019 at 5:20pm PDT

Want to learn more or connect with Roebel? Visit his YouTube page, Instagram or website