Catholic Creative: A Woodworker
An interview with woodworker Jonathan Conrad
“What is wonderful to see is a resurgence as men and women across the globe rediscovering the beauty of Catholicism. A deep prayer life is what fuels the arts, and with advancements in technology you are seeing whole new ways to create beautiful art.”
Katie Warner interviews Catholic artists and artisans about their crafts, asking how their art impacts the Church and their faith impacts their work.
Tell me a little about who you are and about your craft.
I married my high school sweetheart over 11 years ago, and live north of Indianapolis with our three young boys. I work in sales for a software company by day, and The Catholic Woodworker is my creative and ministry outlet.
When did you start woodworking? What inspired you to do this as a career, part-time work, ministry or hobby?
My dad is an engineer so I learned how to build and fix things from him. My grandfather was an engineer for Skill Power Tools and taught me woodworking. We'd visit them twice a year for a week at a time and ever since I can remember we'd spend a day each visit building something in his shop. Once I graduated, [my wife and I] got married and eventually bought our first house. That's when I went from dabbling to a full-blown garage workshop building furniture and picture frames for the family. I grew up Catholic, but my faith didn't mature or become my own until about five years ago. As I grew in my faith, my woodworking increasingly moved to the realm of spiritual weapons.
How does your faith influence your art?
Literally everything I make and sell I originally created for myself at some point in my spiritual journey as an aid. I found value in it and began sharing it with others. I grew up with a mom who is very artistic and ran an art studio. She taught me a lot! Much of what I learned from her growing up influences my work today, especially color matching and design elements.
How does your art impact your faith?
I am a visual person and although it is not a requirement for deep and meaningful prayer, I have found that being surrounded by beautiful statues, artwork, crucifixes, etc. are a visual aid in maintaining focus on prayer.
Can you pick a favorite work you’ve done recently? Tell me a little about it.
I am most proud of our prayer kits. We've produced several different versions over the last two years, but the mini prayer stands are our most affordable and compact version. The inspiration behind the prayer kits came two years ago. I was losing the spiritual battle when I traveled for work, specifically in the realm of pornography and everything that comes with it. Any disciplines I established at home, I struggled to maintain on the road. I knew I needed to be better prepared for battle no matter where I went. Walking into a hotel room with a crucifix, blessed prayer cards and holy water really helped. The first thing I do now is setup my little prayer altar, bless my room, and spend some quiet time in prayer.
Why do you think Catholic art has such an important role to play in the Church?
Beautiful art elevates our minds and hearts to the divine, and what is wonderful to see is a resurgence as men and women across the globe rediscovering the beauty of Catholicism. A deep prayer life is what fuels the arts, and with advancements in technology you are seeing whole new ways to create beautiful art.
To whom do you turn for inspiration?
Much of my artistic inspiration comes through the Holy Spirit, from Mary. I am also constantly in contact with other rosary makers and evangelists getting inspiration, sharing stories and encouraging each other. I developed some really strong friendships that started on Instagram and have grown from there. We collaborate, share our unique skills, and the fruits of that collaboration are beautiful products I could have never created on my own. Some of those artists include but are not limited to Miguel Veluz from Sacred Heart Images, Liz from Salem Studio, Maysoun from Blue Skies Art Studio, Jesse and his wife from ThirtyOneFour, and my fellow rosary-making friends April, Virginia, and Donna. There aren't as many men in the Catholic creative space but plenty in the world of writing and evangelization.
The Saints: St. Joseph, especially as a husband, father and woodworker. St. Maximilian Kolbe as a champion of the rosary and his courageous and unapologetic use of every available means of technology to spread devotion to our Blessed Mother.
Earthly Advisors: Adam and Dave from the Catholic Man Show, Sam Guzman from the Catholic Gentleman, James Baxter from Those Catholic Men, and so many others.
For anyone that feels inspired to use their gifts for the glory of God's kingdom (which should be all of us), I can't emphasize enough how important it is to have other men and women to share part of the journey with. We weren't meant to do this work alone. We need the prayer support, and words of encouragement. Anyone who does this long enough can attest to the intense periods of discouragement and inner turmoil that you experience. You won't make it through them without that support.
Name one piece of advice/wisdom that has had a great influence on your work.
It's hard to name one. Each crossroad of this journey (and there have been many) was met with a good deal of prayer and discernment, accompanied with timely wisdom from a core group of trusted advisors. Fr. Timothy Gallagher has put together some invaluable resources on discernment, which I'd highly recommend. The more disciplined I am in prayer and discernment, the more fruitful the work.
If people want to explore your work in more detail, where can they look?
My website is the best place to get to the online store where you can find our as well as our social media accounts — www.catholicwoodworker.com.