Jeff Bower

Jeff has been woodworking his entire life and wants more availability for children to have access to the arts.

Take us back to you as a kid. I grew up in a small northeast KS town, Marysville. I was usually outside riding dirt bikes, building forts, catching frogs, shooting BB guns, camping and playing tackle football in someone’s backyard until my mom yelled "Hey you guys!!" Every kid in the neighborhood knew when they heard that, it was time go home. My dad and grandpa ran a construction business so tools were always around. One of my best Christmas gifts ever was a pile of boards, a hammer and nails from my grandparents. 

What's keeping you busy? I just wrapped up the last of my spring shows, so I’m trying to clean up the shop and prepare stock for fall/winter shows. I also just dropped off some great pieces at Fontenelle Supply Co. that would make great father’s day gifts.

"I started messing around with it and soon couldn’t get enough of it."

Walk us through the days leading up to starting your own thing? Like I said, I’ve been around woodworking my entire life. I inherited my grandpa’s wood lathe just over 10 years ago. I started messing around with it and soon couldn’t get enough of it. A change in positions at my day job allowed more time in the evenings and soon I was turning more bowls than I could keep for myself. I did a few small shows and started selling to friends. Then I did my first Market Day about 5 years ago. Although it went well, I knew after that show I knew I needed to expand to other items besides wooden bowls and bottle stoppers at different price points to grow my business. 

Talk to us about one of your good days this week. Just a few days ago I spent the early morning on the patio drinking coffee and listening to music. I got in the shop for a few hours and then some good friends had us over for some mules on their deck. After that dinner out, on a patio, with my wife and daughter. Almost the perfect day if you ask me.

What have been the challenges? I’d say my biggest challenge is always time. Managing time between family, my day job and getting in the shop can be a challenge. Who and what has helped? My wife and daughter have helped the most. They encourage me to get out in the shop to make something because they know I love to do it. Plus working with wood keeps me somewhat sane which is always good for them too. Also my dad is great to bounce ideas off of and borrow a tool now and again.

Talk to us about a specific time when you’re dad greatly impacted your life. When I was 14, my dad took me in a F-350 dump truck and parked in on a steep hill. He then said something like, "Time to learn how to drive." We sat there for quite a while before I figured out the clutch, but I did figure it out. This was just one of the times my dad taught me by letting me figure it out myself. Failure is a great teaching tool!

Someone is starting a project for the first time, what would you want to say to them? First of all Do It!! But keep an open mind and seek out others views and advice. One of my favorite quotes is from Picaso “I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else” In other words, don’t be so stubborn about the vision you have that you can’t adapt it. That usually will make it better and more successful. Also, always accept constructive criticism from others. It’s hard to take sometimes, but can help immensely. Most importantly...enjoy the process and take time to have fun!

"Don’t be so stubborn about the vision you have that you can’t adapt it."

Why Des Moines? My wife grew up in West Des Moines. After college we moved to Chicago for 3 great years, but wanted a change. I always like Des Moines so we made the move. I think Des Moines has everything larger cities have, just not as many options to do them at. Think about it for a bit and you'll see I'm right! Food, music, sports, parks, trails, lakes, easy access to travel, higher education...the list goes on and on. I love it here!

Des Moines is growing. What’s one new thing that caught your eye? The changes to downtown since I first came to Des Moines back in the mid 90s is mind boggling! All for the better if you ask me too. The best part is older buildings are being renovated instead of being torn down.

If you could grant the Des Moines area one wish what would it be and why? More availability/funding for children/young adults to have access to the arts.

"A few years ago...Grays Lake was pretty much just a pond along Fluer Dr."

Convince someone new to DSM your favorite place to go on your day off. This time of year that is easy...head to one of the many restaurants/bars in town, sit on the patio, eat great food and drink cold drinks. To many places to list, pick one today and try another the next day until you find your favorite few. 

The most underrated thing in DSM is it’s parks. Why? I don’t utilize them near enough myself, but there are so many parks that have trees, water, trails, wildlife and more. The best part is that they are getting better and better. Think back just a few years ago...Grays Lake was pretty much just a pond along Fluer Dr. Look at it now!

What are you most proud of and why? My family.

In three months what do you hope to accomplish? I will be getting into wooden sculptural work. I have so many ideas to try out and can’t wait start.

What’s one thing people need to know you really care about? Coexisting. I can’t stand the word hate and all that it encompasses.