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  • Writer's pictureHannah R-Reyes

Amanda Whitworth + Sawdust & Soul

Meet Amanda Whitworth, the Freedom-to-Dream Ambassador who has only recently become a woodworking artist with her Etsy shop SawdustnSoul. We discuss her recent exploration of this medium, what it took for her to get there, and where she wants to go next.

Amanda. I think you and I have spent all of one day together, and that was in 2010, in Taiwan, when we caught a bus to the beach with a group of friends. But we've been following each other through social media since then, and I feel like I can state one thing about your personality that stands out from anything else: you're not afraid of change, and self-discovery. Do you think I'm accurate in my assumption? What examples can you give where you've faced challenges that you were able to grow from?

That’s right! Ha! I barely remember that time in my life now. Oh gosh, I think that’s a pretty interesting assessment of my personality. I agree and disagree. I am no stranger to change and often pursue it then find myself totally terrified by the newness I just took on. But, I do think that learning to embrace change and approach it from an optimistic perspective leads to a happier and more content life.

Oh gosh. Well, two major ones stick out. I had colon cancer when I was 24 years old and then went through a pretty hard and painful divorce at 33. I’m definitely one who always looks at every challenge as an opportunity to learn and grown and did so with both. I’ve learned over the years that these challenges has so much to teach me about who I really am. I fought it for a long time but now I lean into any challenge that comes my way and trust that it’ll unfold the way it needs.

Have you always identified as a creative person? How did you choose wood working as your artistic medium?

Actually no. I didn’t admit to myself that I was a creative person until I was about 31 years old. I had just moved to Oregon and lived on a big farm/vineyard. It was during this time that I started realizing there was this whole part of me that I had been denying. I was a very creative kid but at some point I just shut it off.

I really believe however, that all of us have a creative source within us. It’s our responsibility to discover that.

Well, wood working found me actually. I grew up with a dad who built custom homes and I always loved going with him to his jobs. I’d even fake being sick so I could ride along with him to all his job sites. There was something about the smell of sawdust that evoked so much happiness within me. At some point about two years, about the time I moved to California, I started to get these little whispers from within to start working with wood. So I bought my first saw and started creating.

What does your process look like?

My process is a little random. I’m not one to scetch pieces out. I usually just start with a blank canvas (the wood backboard) and begin making cuts. It just evolves from there.

My look is very desert, earthy vibes. I’m drawn to that color pallete. When I try to infuse more primary colors into my work it just doesn’t sit well with me. So I really draw inspiration from nature.

Talk to me about your relationship with nature.

I gain my greatest motivation when I get outside. I grew up just outside of Seattle and would take to the mountains regularly whenever I needed to figure something out. Now since I live closer to the ocean then any mountain range, I walk the beach.

Do you also look to books or podcasts to motivate you?

I’m always reading some kind of personal growth or self-discovery book. A few of my favorites are:

The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein

Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser

Energy Anatomy by Caroline Myss

Bird by Bird by Anne Lammott

What does your day typically look like? Do you follow routines or practices that keep you on track?

Yes and no. In many ways I am a creature of habit. I usually wake up pretty early. I love rising with the sun. I have recently given up coffee and replaced it with warm lemon water. I get that and crawl back into bed and meditate for about 10 minutes. Then I usually work on school work. I recently start school again for Graphic and Web Design.

Then the rest of my day is kind of up in the air. I’ll work on my wood art or take a yoga class or go on a long walk. I still work in a restaurant to pay the bills and that occupies most of my nights. If I’m not working I love meeting friends for dinner or just having a quiet night at home.

Most importantly, I try to listen to what I need at any given minute. Balance has been my word for the year as I’m juggling a lot.

How do you describe Sawdust & Soul as a brand?

Honestly, I’m still trying to figure this out. I think the brand is me, who I am and what I represent. Each piece is a representation of that. I just kind of feel out the pieces by listening to my gut or paying attention to whatever kind of creative visions I get.

I do know a big part of my brand is about giving back. Each month I’ll be picking a different charity to donate a percentage of my proceeds to. I’m a big believer that community is extremely important. We all need to help each other out and move away from this idea that we are totally autonomous creatures. We are a tribe. We should use our natural talents to stick together and help everyone out.

What has been your favorite piece or style to design so far?

I really love and enjoy working on the bigger pieces. I feel like there is just so much more that I can do with them. My favorite pieces are always the ones that I add asymmetry to.

You've recently gotten some exposure in West Elm as a local artist down here in San Diego. Have you been featured in any other stores? How do brick n mortar retail opportunities compare with Etsy?

Honestly, this is all so knew. I just made my first cut for this particular art that I’m creating back in November. It’s all unfolding in amazing ways. I was a local artist at West Elm, I’ll be Culture Brewing Company’s May artist and they are throwing me an opening on May 5th, I have art walks and fairs lined up. I’d love to get into Brick and Mortar shops! I’m learning as I go and there is A LOT to learn!

Where do you hope to see your brand go? Are there other mediums you're looking to work with?

My ultimate goal is to get commissioned to do large format pieces for business and homes. I’d love to do a whole wall in a restaurant or table tops. I’m still in the process of letting this all unfold and seeing what happens. I’m still just dipping my toes in it I guess. However, I see big things in my future!

I’d love to explore pottery but at this time, and because I can get easily distracted, I’m trying to just focus on wood.

Where can people find your work?

Right now, my website:

This will lead you to my Etsy shop.

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To be a Freedom-to-Dream Ambassador means that you face risks and tough challenges to improving your life and to acting on your dreams. To be able to experience wanderlust, to act on our liberties, to utilize our personal mobility throughout our society and culture-- to dream of a better life and to act with our own free will-- these experiences are unavailable to many millions of people around the world.

Ambassadors are helping bring awareness to The Freedom Story, a non-profit organization that seeks to prevent child trafficking in Northern Thailand by expanding the scope of freedom and opportunity for those at-risk. For every Freedom-to-Dream DIY Dreamcatcher Kit sold, $20 will go directly to The Freedom Story and its programming.

I want everyone in this world to have the Freedom to Dream.

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