Shawnee native Nicci Wyels had an art background. She dabbled in nearly every medium before delving into a honeycomb shelf DIY Pinterest project using wood found in her father’s workshop.
Soon, family and friends were asking her for their own set of honeycomb shelves, prompting Wyels to put them on Facebook Marketplace, where she sold around two thousand in the first year. The prolific output helped Wyels hone her woodworking skills for larger projects.
“It evolved into—I didn’t necessarily know at the time—the need for females in woodworking and the demand that designers had to have a sort of a feminine eye on furniture design,” Wyels says.
She has been working on furniture pieces in the six years since, using her woodworking and design skills to make more feminine, timeless pieces that use durable wood and focus on soft curves.
We talked with Wyels about being a woman in a male-dominated field, what trends she sees in interior design and her new homegoods store, Becker+Raven.
How did you transition from DIY Pinterest projects to becoming a full-time woodworker? I made myself a dining table next, and I realized that not only did I love working with timber and tools, but that I could design anything. I’ve always had an interest in interior design, so it kind of blossomed from there. I started making more rounded feminine pieces, and the reception on that was really great. And then I started connecting with designers who were working with male furniture designers and everything was very bulky, square and masculine, and their clients were wanting rounded, light and delicate. So it was a need that I didn’t necessarily know was in demand in the market.
How is it being a female woodworker in a male-dominated industry? After that first year in my dad’s shop, I ended up joining a communal woodshop in Olathe, and there were probably about fifteen to twenty sixty-five-year-old men in there woodworking. It was very challenging in the beginning, I really had to prove myself three times over. I was being thrown in with the wolves. I was super young and a female, and the misogyny was outrageous—just not even being able to run a piece of equipment without someone asking if I knew what I was doing and if I was going to hurt myself. I soaked up as much as I could and asked a lot of questions, and then I just basically adapted that in my own way. In the beginning, I was angry, but towards the end of it I realized that we’re the next generation of woodworkers. All of this useful information and the processes that would’ve been lost with that generation are now being passed down.
Tell us about your new store, Becker+Raven. I teamed up with another furniture maker, Coulton Becker, and we opened up a showroom at 5811 Johnson Drive in downtown Mission. We both have our furniture pieces in there, but we also feature about five to ten local artisans in the space as well, so we’ve turned it into a kind of a locally made artisan home goods store. I predominantly work with designers who will commission me for a custom piece. But now that I have Becker+Raven, I’ve started to build more stock with pieces that are my style that I would want to see in my home.
What furniture trends do you anticipate for the future? I think walnut is going to make a huge comeback this year. I really am focused on keeping things round, too. Designers are always pushing me, asking me things like, “Can you add brass veneer or antique glass?” Just adding those nice little found objects that can go on top of modern furniture. I’ve been so crisp and modern for so long, so I’m kind of excited this year to explore that, toning down the super contemporary and bringing a little bit more of that magic of old with new. With design, I try to just focus on making the piece a statement without it dominating the space. How is it going to fit in? Is it going to stick out like a sore thumb, like a giant art piece? Or is it going to be fluid and flow with the space?