By Neva Knott
Craftsmanship is one of the philosophies of Bryan Torian’s life, and is the characteristic of wood-working that draws him to the profession. Bryan grew up in a woodshop in Manzanita, Oregon, watching his dad make wooden signs for local shops. By watching his dad work, Bryan developed what he calls an innate ability to work with wood. For him, one of the joys of wood-working is making products that are well built and will last for generations.
Bryan came to Olympia specifically to attend The Evergreen State College, where he studied hydrology, visual arts—acrylic and watercolor painting and printmaking as well as 3-D mixed media, and wood-working. At TESC, Bryan developed the skills he brought with him from his dad’s shop. He learned joinery and furniture making, and even began making furniture from salvaged pallets—more of a hobby, he says, but working with wood nonetheless. He also studied with master woodworker Daryl Morgan, who is trained in Japanese design. Through his relationship with Morgan, Bryan had the opportunity to build the ornate Japanese gate that stands on campus near the organic farm.
Bryan found his way to Beech Tree Woodworks because of the kitchen table he built for himself. One of his bicycle-racing buddies saw the table, knew Nic James—owner of Beech Tree Woodworks—was hiring, and suggested Bryan give him a call. Bryan’s thankful to be a part of James’s team because the operation of the business and the quality of the products made are in line with his philosophies. He says Nic is a generous employer and nice guy, as is everyone else who works for Beech Tree. And he appreciates that the shop is clean, organized, and well thought out. Bryan smiles, “I feel like my ability is developing here, in just a few weeks.”
As Bryan and I talk, he connects wood-working to environmental responsibility. “It is hard to quantify the economic benefit of craft. Environment is the important part.” The products made at Beech Tree offer an alternative to disposability; they are made to last. While discussing the connection between trees, cabinetry and furniture, I ask Bryan about his favorite wood. Vertical-grain fir. Maple. Walnut. Beautiful woods from the Pacific Northwest.
Not only is Bryan a wood-worker and visual artist, he races bicycles for Olympia Orthopaedic Associates. The team is sponsored by Beech Tree, and Bryan says one of the perks of his new job is the extended bike commute—it’s good training.
Previously, Bryan worked for Outward Bound. The spirit of craftsmanship came alive in that job, too. In the context of the outdoors, craft is act of awareness. For example, it defines how one paddles a kayak to benefit from the boat’s design. Keeping gear in good shape. Cleaning equipment. In the end, craftsmanship affects performance. Bryan smiles and tells me sometimes his belief in quality gets him in trouble—he wants more high-end bikes to ride.
Bryan strives to live within his philosophy by making his work ethic his lifestyle; he orders his habits so that he can live with less, and can have more meaningful and well-built things. Working at Beech Tree seems to be a culmination of all that Bryan works to live by—creativity, craftsmanship, performance, and a good ride in to work each day.