Today we’d like to introduce you to Ray Jones.
Ray, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I studied aeronautical engineering in college and spent the summers working in construction in the small Northern California town where I had grown up. I was very fortunate to work for the same man each summer and learned a lot about making things with my hands.
So when I graduated from college in 1976 and moved to Los Angeles to take an engineering job (developing ramjet engines) I rented a house and instead of buying furniture I bought tools and began making my furniture. I met Linda, my wife-to-be, in 1979, and she already had a house full of furniture, so I started making smaller wooden items.
I made a box for Linda in 1979 and soon started making and selling boxes, clocks, desk accessories, and other items in my spare time and selling them at local craft shows on weekends. In 1982, I left my engineering job to pursue woodworking full time.
I eventually began to concentrate on making only boxes and began to have success at larger and more prestigious art and craft shows. I have designed boxes for jewelry, watches, pens, pocket knives, tea caddies, and other small collectibles. I can also custom design boxes to suit my clients’ needs.
Almost 40 years later, I have participated in most of the best shows in the country, and my boxes have even been given as diplomatic gifts from a former president to foreign heads of state. The design of these boxes is all based on the one I made for Linda so long ago.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Getting started in the woodworking business was not easy.
It involved lots of work and very long hours, 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week. In the beginning, my income was very low. I used up my savings from my engineering job and had the support of my wife. After a few years, I had honed my designs and skills and began to be accepted into better and better art shows, and my sales increased accordingly.
In 1999, I participated in the St. Louis Art Fair (SLAF) for the first time. The show was hugely successful for me, and I was awarded first place in my category.
I have participated in the SLAF almost every year since then. Over the years I built up relationships with some of my STL customers and we have become friends. At least two different customers have purchased wedding gifts for their spouse-to-be, then returned them with their spouses in subsequent years for anniversary gifts!
At one of my earliest St Louis Art Fairs, a woman visited my booth with her young son, who was about 8 or 9 years old. He was very taken with my boxes, and his mother bought one for him.
They visited my booth for the next few years, and each time the son would pick out a small box and his mother would buy it for him. When the boy got to be about 12 or 13, he selected a much larger box. His mother told him he would have to choose between the box or the new video game system he was wanting. He chose the box! That really warmed my heart!
Some of my customers requested boxes to house their fountain pen collections. Realizing that this was a niche market for my boxes, I began to add pen boxes to my available designs.
A few years back, I was fortunate to participate in the inaugural St Louis Pen Show, and have participated in each show since then. Between the St Louis Pen Show and the St Louis Art Fair, I have a strong connection to St, Louis and always look forward to coming back.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I specialize in making wooden boxes.
Mine are different from most others in that they are made entirely of wood, including the hinges, fasteners, and all other “hardware.” Woods from all over the world are used, without any stains or dyes.
A clear oil finish is applied to allow the natural beauty of the woods to show through. I like to use woods with unusual colors, grains, and figures. In the last 40 years, I have made over 16,000 boxes.
So, before we go, how can our readers or others connect or collaborate with you? How can they support you?
I sell my boxes online at rayjoneswoodboxes.com. I also participate in major craft shows in several cities.
In the St. Louis Area, I will be participating in the St Louis Pen Show, June 24-26 in Westport, and the St. Louis Art Fair, Sept 9-11 in Clayton. Visitors to Asheville, NC, where I have lived since 1990, can see my work at Ariel Gallery, 19 Biltmore Avenue, https://arielcraftgallery.com.
- Box prices range from $95-$5700.
- Website: https://www.rayjoneswoodboxes.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rayjoneswoodcrafts/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RayJonesWoodboxes
- Other: https://arielcraftgallery.com
Linda Hynson and Tim Barnwell Photography