United States

Meet RSM Pursue Your Passion Winner: Matt Dollard

ARTICLE

My passion is making hand-made furniture. I’ve always liked making things with my hands. As a young boy I loved building model airplanes and boats, especially when it required me to learn a skill. When I stepped into a middle school woodshop at age 12, I was hooked. I had a great teacher who encouraged and supported my projects. Today I’m good enough to call myself an amateur woodworker. But, I’d like to get back with an instructor. I’ll use the Pursue Your Passion award to be a student alongside some of the best master woodworkers in the country. I have a lifelong plan that when I retire from the firm I would like to own a bespoke business. I’ll make custom crafted furniture, and if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to teach and inspire others who want to learn along the way.

I haven’t been making furniture my whole life. I continued woodworking in high school. But business school, a career, graduate school and family demands crept in. After finishing graduate school with honors, I returned to the dream of having my own woodshop. My wife has been supportive, and I’ve been busy making furniture in my spare time ever since. 

Today my home is a small and growing museum of my work and I love showing it off to visitors. In the last six years I’ve built several pieces. I’ve built an archway in our foyer, side tables, a buffet, bedside tables, a bed and nightstand for my daughter, a bench, a built-in six door cabinet with three tiers of bookshelves, an arched faux window, two guitars, a television console, tool chests, custom workbenches, and I’ve restored old furniture. I’ve also built and given furniture away to friends and family. 

Getting materials can be a challenge because hardwood is expensive. I’ve found wood in dumpsters in front of old homes being torn down or under rehab. Church rehabs are especially good. I especially love the furniture I’ve made from rescued wood that was otherwise headed for a landfill. 

I’ve acquired a few machine tools. However, more and more I’m collecting and using hand tools and methods that date back to the days before the electrical outlet. I admire craftsmen who build most of their furniture by hand; churning out a modest number of furniture pieces a year. After plunging myself into hand tool crafting, I get why they do it. The mind becomes immersed in the details, you slow down and the end result is an expression of a lot of thought. It’s awesome. 

For my next challenge I’d like to try my hand at making chairs. Chairs with lines that curve and skew in different directions are of great interest to me. They are also really hard to make. Few know how to make them by hand. If you’ve sat in an attractive handmade wood chair that fits your body like it was made especially for you, then it’s probably a nice chair indeed. 

I’m studying the work of several of the best hand-made chair makers. Their work can’t be easily mass produced. Their furniture becomes a prized possession for those fortunate enough to own and afford it. They make originals, each slightly different than the last. I’ve learned that the techniques required for this level of chair making are out of my reach today.

So, I’m going to study alongside a master in a chair making class after which I’ll have a finely made hand crafted chair and new skills, tools and materials. I’d also like to gift a hand crafted chair to an RSM office and have it stand as a sample of what’s possible Pursue Your Passion program. Picture a hand crafted chair (possibly even a rocking chair!) made by an accountant in the lobby with a nice story alongside it. What do you think?