Jarrod Napierkowski spent years pouring cold beer as a bartender, and then manager, of Founders Brewing Company and Creston Brewery in Grand Rapids. But he had another interest. Now, Napierkowski works full-time at his own business: Brambles Woodwork in Grand Rapids.
“I’ve been doing woodwork for about 15 years,” Napierkowski says. “I would actually bring in my wood to the bar. And I would have people come in and visit me specifically there to take a look at my pieces and my jewelry, so I would do a lot of my sales right across the bar.”
Woodwork was a hobby then. Only in 2019 did he decide to make it a full-time occupation. Friends and customers had been pushing him to do that for years, and when he finally took the leap, Napierkowsku says, “it wasn’t so scary.”
Napierkowski makes his jewelry — primarily earrings — out of most any organic material, although he prefers wood. On occasion he also uses bone, antler, seeds, or even butterfly wings - whatever he might find on walks or traveling.
“But nothing is quite as malleable and fun to work with as wood,” Napierkowski says. “You get to see the entire life story of the tree every time you cut into it. You can see where it struggled, where it overcame an obstacle, and had to kind of move and twist to get around, and for me that’s just fascinating.”
Napierkowski’s first piece of jewelry was a pair of earrings. He made them from a sliver of discarded wood a friend found. He has since found that earrings are the best form to show off the grain and coloring and shape of the wood he uses.
“If you go in with too much of an idea, then you’re going to be stuck to that idea,” he says. “So you go in and you look at the grain, and you look at the patterns, and okay, this is what it needs to be, and then something might bloom from that and it becomes this grouping of interesting ideas.”
Work day done, Napierkowski still enjoys a cold brew, usually an IPA.
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