5 Women Who are Rocking the Woodworking World

Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day

“Who run the world? Girls!” In celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, we compiled a list of incredible women who are not only talented woodworkers, but also business-savvy creatives. Your first impression of woodcarvers may be men in flannel with long beards, but there are some talented women superstars creating unique works of art. A career choice that was predominately male, woodworking women historically have flown under the radar. Now thanks to the power of social media, hundreds of women are entering the profession. Check out the list below for some great woodworking role models and pioneers, for both women and men alike. 

Lora S. Irish

Lora “Jill of all Trades” Irish – Woodcarver, Pyrographer, Scroll Sawer

If you’re no stranger to the woodcarving world, you’ve heard the name, Lora Irish. An internationally known artist, Lora is the author of 28 woodcarving, pyrography, and craft pattern books, including Great Book of Carving Patterns, World Wildlife Patterns for the Scroll Saw, The Art and Craft of Pyrography, Relief Carving the Wood Spirit, Great Book of Celtic Patterns, Landscape Pyrography, Cane Topper Woodcarving, and many more. Winner of the Woodcarver of the Year award, Lora is a frequent contributor to Woodcarving Illustrated and Scroll Saw Woodworking & Crafts magazines. Trained as a Fine Artist at the University of Maryland, Lora and her husband established their home-based studio, Art Designs Studio, in 1984.  Today, Lora continues to work from her studio in rural mid-Maryland where she is currently exploring new crafts and hobbies, including wire bent link jewelry, metal sheet jewelry, piece patch and appliqué quilting, gourd carving, gourd pyrography, and leather crafts. Click here to shop her books.

Jo Schwartz

Woodburning Guru Jo Schwartz  – Pyrographer

Jo Schwartz began woodburning in 2005 in an attempt to “fix” a carved character. “It turns out, I can’t whittle,” she said. “But I did like the look of the burnt areas!” Jo wandered around the web looking for other people who were interested in burned wood, found a site that inspired her, burned some really terrible trees and mountains, switched to human figures, and has never looked back. Three years later, Jo became the first person to teach woodburning in Antarctica. There is no wood on the continent, so she had to mailorder wood for projects! These days, the Kansas native is sticking closer to home. For a number of years, she ran a gallery and studio in historic Old Abilene Town, which is a famed cow town. She’s back to working from a home studio for now, but still enjoys heading into the historic district to photograph the reenactors who roam the area. As a result, she is known for her Western-themed work in addition to her portraiture. She is a regular contributor to Pyrography Magazine and an author of Woodburning Realistic People, and pyrography teacher. Regardless of the student or class location, she builds their confidence by admitting that her first pieces were “laughable” and then showing what is possible with a little practice, patience, and passion.

Judy Gale Roberts

“Intarsia Queen” Judy Gale Roberts – Scroll Sawer

The artist largely responsible for the rebirth of intarsia, Judy Gale Roberts began creating intarsia with her father, Pat Dudley Roberts, around 1974.   In 1997, Judy was the first woman and one of the first 10 people to be inducted into Wood magazine’s Woodworking Hall of Fame. Her work has been featured in Scroll Saw Workshop, Scroll Saw Woodworking & Crafts Magazine (Click here to get her free reindeer scroll saw pattern) and Patrick Spielman’s The Art of the Scroll Saw. At present, Judy and her partner, Jerry, teach almost 100 students each year in beginning, intermediate, advanced intarsia techniques, and their pattern business has grown from its initial three patterns to 300 patterns. Judy is also a published author of many intarsia books including  Wildlife Intarsia and the Intarsia Workbook.

Betty Padden

Whimsical Carver Betty Padden – Woodcarving

Betty Padden began the hobby of carving and painting as a child of about 12 and became a professional carver and painter in  1976, with her husband, Bob, their our sign-carving studio in Auburn, Massachusetts. Together, they have produced carvings and signs for businesses and homes, and for such customers as the U.S. military (carved insignias), Boston’s Quincy Market, the Disney Company, Anheuser-Busch, and others around the country and around the world. Betty began teaching woodcarving and painting in 1980 and still holds classes their studio for our numerous students. She loves instructing others in this fascinating and varied art form. Betty as also written articles for Woodcarving Illustrated Magazine (Click here to check out her Christmas Tree Stand Village feature) as well as multiple books, Carving & Painting Christmas Ornaments, Carving & Painting Noah’s Ark, and Lettering and Sign Carving Workbook. 

Janet Bolyard

Soap Carver Janet Bolyard  – Wood & Soap Carver

Janet Bolyard’s love affair with carving began in the fifth grade when she carved a poodle out of a bar of soap. As a teenager, she later switched to wood carving but she never forgot her soap carved creation. After 25 years in the healthcare industry, Janet found her passion. She started as a manager at Woodcraft in Chandler, Arizona, and later an instructor at the Southwest Center for Craftsmanship School of Fine Woodworking in Phoenix where she was surrounded by carvers of all ages. Fast forward to ten years later, Janet is now a member of the Arizona Woodcarvers Association/Grand Canyon Wood Carving Club, a contributor to Woodcarving Illustrated Magazine, and a recent author of her first book, the Complete Guide to Soap Carving.

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