Women of Woodworking — Daej Hamilton, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
When you know, you know.
Daej Hamilton may be young, but true talent knows no age, race, or gender. Hamilton is an emerging furniture designer and maker out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with more than a decade of woodworking experience already under her belt. She’s found her voice early on and knows how to use it to share her grounding narrative through her work.
“I started woodworking almost 12 years ago in the 6th grade. During middle school and high school, my teachers really guided me to continue on this path that I knew was meant for me,” Hamilton explains.
Knowing she was heading off the conventional route early on, Hamilton’s challenges weren’t typical for most seeking satisfaction in making or in discovering her passion, rather, it was that her participation provides a unique representation as a minority woman in a field that is male dominated, and predominately white.
“While growing through this journey, I soon realized that there weren’t many people that looked like me designing and making furniture. As a Canadian-Caribbean woman, being in this field is unusual; almost completely unheard of. I wanted to be able to break that barrier that a lot of women like me are blocked by. I wanted to be that one person who can represent my demographic in this very male dominated field. I wanted to prove that you don’t have to follow societal standards. That we, as woman, can actually follow our passions and still live a very fulfilled life,” says Hamilton.
Hamilton’s reverence for her own experience and heritage is incorporated into her creative style and design concepts. She is inspired by history, and produces work with the intent of bringing joy and opportunity together for communities that historically did not have access to modern design. She is also passionate about woodworking education and leading future generations to the craft.
“Back in the 50’s and 60’s, many people of color were run out of the suburbs and forced to live in inner city sub-sections. This denied their access to a lot of mid-century, modern design that was thriving in architecture and furniture. My goal with my craft is to reshape that part of history by making mid-century modern design as well as just well made furniture accessible to everyone,” says Hamilton, “Additionally, I want to be able to share my woodworking skills with the younger generation because I feel like woodworking is such an essential skill to have.”
The clean and classic minimalist pieces Hamilton produces are confidently elegant and intentionally functional. The Isabis table features Ambrosia Maple which provides a colorful and playful contrast with the table’s sleek form. The choice to use Ambrosia Maple itself makes a statement about Hamilton’s vision as a creator. She honors the beauty in a naturally occurring phenomenon produced by insects that was previously thought to make the wood undesirable for other high-end uses.
Taking a wider view of Hamilton’s portfolio one can see more of the intricate inclusions of her personal history interwoven with her strong technique. Her We sculpture brings her experience as a woman of color into the finely carved piece in several ways, including the use of Sapele, an African hardwood. Every decision Hamilton makes is intentional and provides little details of information to discover that helps you comprehend more of her experience as a maker with a profound viewpoint to share.
When asked what her favorite item to build was, Hamilton again pulls in inspiration from the empathic exchange that occurs with human connection, “My favorite thing to build would be a table, any type of table. Tables bring people together. And the thought of people gathering around something I built them to eat dinner, play games or just discuss life is just amazing.”