Creative Spaces: The WoodSource

12711018_10153453472643716_7412740385346705461_oYou may not know this but Ottawa is quietly becoming one of the most interesting and creative places to live and I’ve been lucky enough to have a front-row seat. In the summer of 2014 I met with the owners of The WoodSource in Manotick Station and approached them about creating a social media presence to help them transition from traditional marketing such as bus and radio ads to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. What I’ve learnt over the last two years is that Ottawa is undergoing a culture change fueled by community-based businesses who focus on quality and experience rather than making a quick buck.

As I started building The WoodSource’s Twitter and Facebook presence I was constantly blown away with how many local businesses big and small were building beautiful things with their lumber; from international tech giant Shopify’s new cedar offices to local community pillars such as Bridgehead and Farm Boy to restaurants like the Elmvale Tavern and Pure Kitchen. Big, medium and small local businesses are using real wood to create warm environments for their customers while subtly reminding those who live here that before the Canal, before the Parliament Buildings – Ottawa was a lumber town.

But it isn’t just businesses that are leading the creative change in Ottawa. As I kept finding out what was going on in Ottawa I met two new local organizations whose goal was to make woodworking affordable and accessible to people who may not have had access before. The first was Ottawa City Woodshop, a membership based woodworking shop located in City Centre, founded by Matt Wallace and Mike Griegoriev with a goal to “build the future of woodworking in Ottawa while rediscovering the city’s lumber heritage.” A year in they’ve sold out dozens of workshops and have a growing membership base.

The second is Ottawa Tool Library, also based in City Centre, spear-headed by the fearless tool goddess Bettina Vollmerhausen and the generous Frederic Sune with a vision “to foster a sustainable community by providing an outlet for creativity and prioritizing access over ownership.” If you’ve ever visited the library it’s hard not to want to build something.

Both these organizations are pulling back the curtain on how things are made by making building and making accessible to amateurs and pros alike in inclusive and community spaces to help make Ottawa a place that works together to keep it beautiful inside and out. And it’s within that spirit of community that The WoodSource is having an Open House this weekend.

If you’ve haven’t driven down Mitch Owens Road in the last few years you may be surprised to find out that in Ottawa’s backyard Tim and Phil Priddle have been building the woodworkers equivalent to Disney Land for the last twenty years and it’s all going to be on display Friday and Saturday.

First, the store, if you haven’t been to The WoodSource before this building sets the tone for the rest of the property, if you have, then it’s time to remember what we’ve taken for granted for the last 12 years. For me this building is more than just a store. I started working for The WoodSource when I was 16 and my first job was working on the new store. I wasn’t entirely sure how big the scope of what I was working on was or how it would even look but my task was fairly simple; I helped the carpenter make the sixteen pillars that hold up the new store. The WoodSource had purchased reclaimed Douglas Fir pillars from the old Uplands Airport hangers and repurposed them to build the store. We removed all of the old hardware and made 64 tapered beams. Then we had to take each one and fill all the splits with wood glue then clamp the beams as tight was possible. Once the glue was dry we would drill out holes for our new hardware and fasten together four beams to make one pillar. Repeat 16 times.

Once you’ve taken in everything the store has to offer you should make your way out to the new mill and warehouse.  The north end of the warehouse, dubbed the live edge forest, boasts the largest selection of live edge slabs in the city. Then, make your way through the warehouse down to the south end enter the new mill and see how they make all of their products.  At the far end you’ll find two massive moulders used to dress all of their stock and custom lumber. They will be featuring the new machines and giving demonstrations throughout the day Friday and Saturday morning.

If that’s not interesting enough for you the final building is the newest and most aesthetically appealing on the property. Built from a salvaged mid 19th century barn be careful as you enter because the atmosphere might inspire you to redo every room in your house. Each wall features a different reclaimed wood product from old Canadian barns to ancestral wagon board from Eastern Europe. Atmopshere & Bois, a Belgian company, have been partners with The WoodSource for over decade bringing Canadian reclaimed wood all over Europe. They’ve moved on to The WoodSource complex bringing with them unique European reclaimed wood that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

The latest phase of construction finally finished in the fall of 2015 and The WoodSource is excited to showoff what they’ve been building over the last twenty years to the region. You can find me bouncing around Atmosphere & Bois, the store and the mill this weekend. There will be sales, snacks, coffee, contractor, architects and designers. The WoodSource will be open Friday till 5pm and Saturday till 1pm and Atmosphere & Bois will be open till 5:30pm both Friday and Saturday.

In conclusion, this is an unapologetic and shameless plug. The WoodSource is place that has been a constant in my life since I was bright-eye teenager. I’ve spent countless hours in the yard piling wood, days up in the office doing data entry, helped hundres of customers plan their renovations and learnt how the wild world of social media marketing works. Through The WoodSource I’ve been able to get a behind the scenes look at how the building industry works in Ottawa and it’s going to be a great weekend for customers to go behind the scenes at The WoodSource. So, if you’re looking for something to do this weekend get a membership at Ottawa City Woodshop or Ottawa Tool Library come down to Manotick Station, buy some wood and join the countless Ottawaians making beautiful things out of wood.

Matthieu Foreman

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