In his workshop in Brooklyn, N.Y., Joey Pepper is making wooden lamps, experimenting with how to make light filter through solid wood. Pepper, who skates for Expedition One and is best known for effortless-looking street style, is a carpenter, too.
He calls himself a hack, but he's selling himself short. He spent three years as a paid apprentice under Red Hook woodworker James Harmon, learning cabinetry and furniture making, honing the craft. "I've always had an interest in working with my hands," Pepper says.
Right around the time he started working with Harmon, Pepper found 3rd Ward, a collective workspace in Brooklyn that focuses on making things you can actually use. It's a 30,000-square-foot playground for people who work with their hands, professionally and otherwise. It has a co-working space, classes in things like joinery and wax casting and a warehouse filled with arc welders, sanders and band saws. Pepper works upstairs in their light-filled woodshop overlooking Morgan Street.
He says he likes 3rd Ward because of the other people who use the space. "It's the perfect environment for someone who wants to be creative and wants to be around people who have similar interests," he explains. "You're in your head working, but you have other people around."
He's had work in art shows in Boston and Brooklyn recently, and right now he's working on smaller pieces, sculptural stuff like the lamps, instead of larger-scale furniture. It wasn't necessarily intentional -- he says the lamps came out of a prototype for another project -- but that's the part Pepper likes about the creative process, and about working at 3rd Ward: You can bounce ideas around and figure stuff out as you go.
Skating is similar for him; he says you have to obsessively work at problems. The way Pepper works through projects in the woodshop, trying a million different ways to get something right, is the same.
Pepper says it can be hard to align his career as a skater with being in the shop. The two sides to his spirit battle physically, but complement each other mentally. "The schedules really conflict with each other and they're both hard on your body in different ways," he says. "But they definitely relate to each other in the way I approach it; it's totally creative."
Now he just has to figure out the timing and see if he can do both without spreading himself too thin. "I've got a few leads from the Brooklyn show for the lamps, about turning this into some kind of brand," he says. "But I'm trying to pull myself away and skate." He's on the road for the most of the summer, on skate trips to Europe, Texas and the Southeast. "I want people to see my stuff, but it's a big endeavor. I'm just going to ride the wave and try not to turn anything down."