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Life & Work with Derek Salazar of Star Pass

Today we’d like to introduce you to Derek Salazar.

Hi Derek, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
As a young child, I would often help my grandfather around his workshop on the afternoons after school – like almost every day. I can vividly recall being given my own small hammer pretty early and attempting to drive in nails. Sometimes, even putting more dents and holes in those walls of his shop more than I managed to hit the nails. As you might guess, these are amongst my fondest of childhood memories. Years ago, my grandfather accidentally gave himself the nickname of “My Grandpa, my old man” and, of course, it stuck with my brother my dad and I. We quickly abbreviated it to “The Old Man”. The nickname has stuck all these years… I’m sure you’ve put it together already. Once I started moving my woodworking from a hobby to something I wanted to share with others, the name was obvious. I’m happy to use it more officially now to describe a set of skills that he introduced to me. It definitely feels like it’s full circle. I started Old Man Woodworking as any other person starts a hobby – with minimal knowledge and a mind full of creativity. More too many times than I can count, I called my grandfather from my garage in Phoenix asking “How should I do this…” or “What’s the best way to do that…” I, and the company, has since relocated to Tucson. That’s not all that’s changed…

Now, I call him more often to show him the products I have designed and brought to life, always remembering to thank him for the many lessons and years of love and support. I so proud that named my company after my grandfather for this reason: he is my mentor and teacher. My projects and offerings continue to grow and I can truly say that I am inspired by so many people and so many places. For example, just last year, while at a local brewery with my girlfriend, we found some unique beer flight trays which inspired a bold and simple reaction: “I can do that.” After a couple attempts, I had completed the first two pieces and it started me down a path which eventually led to where I am today. I have a supportive girlfriend, a grandfather as a mentor, and a deep drive to create things unique and individualistic. I truly believe that anything is possible. Today, two years into making custom pieces for the home and kitchen, we have found success and joy participating in artisan markets, connecting with other local artists and collaborating with small businesses. We are proud to share a portion of our proceeds with the Surfrider Foundation in California and to the World Central Kitchen. We believe giving back and supporting those in need, as well as the preservation of our world’s beaches.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
We are lucky to say that the largest obstacles we have encountered is physical space and elements. Initially operating out of a garage in Phoenix, when we relocated to Tucson our overall space downsized to a small backyard and shed. We have been able to make the most out of the compact space we work in by utilizing movable carts, compact shelving units and taking advantage of the smallest of areas. In addition to a small workspace, another challenge to working out of a backyard being at the mercy of the elements, which presented as a small barrier as winter came to a head. Our tools have been acquired as we go, allowing our creativity to grow as our tool arsenal does. In today’s situation, it is impossible to talk about challenges without mentioning COVID-19. Suddenly, we were unable to attend as many gathering and markets we had plans to participate in. The financial strain of COVID-19 was tough as many individuals are unable to purchase high dollar items, we do our best to provide quality, handcrafted product to our audience at reasonable prices.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
At Old Man Woodworking, we specialize in custom and unique items including Cutting/Serving boards for the kitchen as well as large statement furniture pieces for home. We are thankful to have grown in popularity as we begin to offer a diverse range of products to our customers. We have received custom orders ranging from turquoise inlaid, live edge coffee tables and reversible cutting boards to ocean wave epoxy serving boards and coasters. We are proud to be able to continue the craft which was taught at a young age by “The Old Man” and provide functional art to our supporters.

Can you tell us more about what you were like growing up?
Growing up in the small town of Santa Fe, NM was something that I didn’t learn to appreciate until I had moved out of the city. With not too much to do recreationally, I would spend most of my time with my grandparents or engaging in sports. I was a three sport athlete for my initial years of middle/high school. In my Sophomore year I made the decision to leave my high school and join a charter school which was incorporated into the city’s community college. This was a pivotal point for me because to make this decision I had to give up the school sports I had always participated in, trading those activities for the chance to be have a better academic opportunity. While attending this Charter school, I was able to attend typical high school classes but also enroll in college classes. More specifically, engineering courses. These courses taught me how to draw technically, gain experience with CAD and 3D modeling, to a 16 year old, this was the coolest thing. I was able to think of a design, draw it out, and then use a program to make it 3D and print out the creation. Also around this time, I was beginning to teach myself how to play the guitar.

With this new challenge, I was able to express my creativity though music. Although difficult, I appreciated the challenge of learning something new, trying something I had not done before, or preforming in front of close friends. This is an attribute which would stick with me throughout my teenage years and continued through today. Since then, I have picked up and experimented with different styles of art including: Photography, Music, Drawing and ultimately woodworking. To bring this full circle, I have a lot to reasons to thank home town, including the experiences and the culture. Santa Fe and Southwestern culture continue to be an inspiration for our design style.

Pricing:

  • Cutting Boards average between $40 and 90
  • Ocean Epoxy Boards average between $50 and $100
  • Furniture orders will vary based on size an design

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Selena Valencia

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