Artist Spotlight: Kyle Roberts
This week’s artist spotlight features Kyle Roberts of California Sawdust. Kyle started his business a few years ago and has a passion for handcrafting designs for his clients. Kyle was raised around woodworking, and his talent as a craftsman shows that creativity can come in many different forms.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself (what you do, family life, hobbies, etc). Share something people might not know about you. This could be something funny, a hidden talent, or a fun fact.
A: I’m Kyle Roberts, owner of California Sawdust. I’m a Tehachapi native who moved to Bakersfield a couple years ago for work as a welder and decided to stay after meeting my girlfriend and business partner, Janea’. I enjoy visiting my family in Tehachapi and Bear Valley, especially during the summer when it’s much cooler than Bakersfield! When I’m not working, I enjoy fishing with my Labrador retriever, Dexter, and cruising around on my motorcycle. As much as I enjoy working in the shop, I’m grateful for the flexibility to take a break when I need it and refocus again on whatever project I have going on. California Sawdust is managed by me and my girlfriend, and I collaborate with my brother who owns a restoration company and provides me with reclaimed wood. My cousin, who cuts trees, helps get me live edge pieces. My girlfriend’s three daughters are my helpers in the shop and really enjoy learning how to help our customers. Who knows--maybe one of them will take over the company someday.
Q: Where do you find inspiration? What drives you creatively?
A: Since I do custom work, I get my direction and inspiration from each customer. I do my best to understand the purpose of each piece to help the customer make decisions on wood type, size, and more. When I’m working on a piece of my own to sell at a later date, I draw my inspiration from the wood itself. Fun fact: I’m actually colorblind, so I don’t see the wood in the same way others do. I may even see things in the wood others can’t. I handpick each piece, even for custom work. I do this because I think each project is unique, and the wood should complement that. I really enjoy coming across wood in nature, like a fallen tree or branch. I get to see the layers and what’s underneath the bark before it gets to a saw mill. These “live” pieces are my favorites. When I discover them, I’m at my creative best.
Q: How and when did you discover your talent for woodworking?
A: I’ve been around woodworking in some way my whole life. I actually use my grandpa’s band saw that was passed down to my uncle, and then to me. However, I never thought of anything my family did as “woodworking.” If we wanted something made, we made it. When I was still working as a welder, I helped my girlfriend create a treehouse for her daughters. It was very basic and only took me a day to complete. For her, however, that was lightning speed! Soon after, I began building more for family and my own home. My girlfriend thought it was awesome how quickly and how well I could make her furniture. She was the one who pushed me to create my own business. She began developing a business plan and working on branding, while I just kept working. And the jobs kept coming. We launched California Sawdust on Memorial Day in 2017, and it’s been a great experience ever since.
Q: What has surprised you most about working in a creative field?
A: I knew I would work with materials other than wood, but I did not realize how varied the opportunities were to create something using only wood. I’ve been able to get creative with different paints, stains, resin, wood-burning, and metals, too. I also enjoy learning different techniques to build commonly-commissioned pieces.
Q: Have there been any recent highlights with your work that you are particularly proud of?
A: I’m pretty proud of some recent work that has required mastering the small details. It’s not really my style, but I’m trying to challenge myself and learn new techniques. I’ve also added new equipment to the shop, including a scroll saw. It’s a machine that allows me to make very detailed cuts. My favorite piece that I’ve made so far is a Tennessee Titans logo, which now hangs in my man cave (my shop).
Q: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
A: I really enjoy focusing on bigger projects, like dining tables. However, I often get requests for smaller pieces that take lots of time and effort but don’t generate much income. So, we have decided to start selling our smaller handmade items (cutting boards and wine racks, for instance) at events like Bakersfield’s First Friday. While these are still handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces, they’re made in between projects and don’t take time away from larger ones. It’s also exciting to be out in the community and interact with customers to a greater extent since we don’t have a storefront.
Q: Is there anything else you think would be helpful for creatives or entrepreneurs to know while building their business and pursing their passion?
A: Running my own business has been a challenging and rewarding experience. If anyone is considering it, I would say to follow your dreams and don’t let anything set you back. If you have a passion, chase it.