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At Osprey Design Studio, a local woodworker crafts art and furniture with the environment in mind

Osprey Design Studio founder Hudson McNamee focuses on a custom woodworking piece at his studio in downtown Basalt. McNamee, who has a background in environmental policy, incorporates sustainable practices and materials into his work.
Emily Henley
Courtesy of Osprey Design Studio
Osprey Design Studio founder Hudson McNamee focuses on a custom woodworking piece at his studio in downtown Basalt. McNamee, who has a background in environmental policy, incorporates sustainable practices and materials into his work.

At Osprey Design Studio in downtown Basalt, woodworker Hudson McNamee crafts custom furniture and art pieces with the environment in mind.

McNamee uses repurposed wood, and he treats it with materials that ensure his products can be recycled — or repurposed again — down the line. His work is “designed to be harmonious with people and the planet,” according to the Osprey Design Studio website, inspired by McNamee’s background in environmental policy.

McNamee joined reporter Kaya Williams live in the Aspen Public Radio studio for an interview about his work this week. It’s part of a series of live interviews with local community members during our year-end membership drive, which runs through Dec. 5. We’ll be posting additional interviews from the series shortly as they occur.

You can hear the audio using the “Listen” button above and read a transcript below; this interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Kaya Williams: You are the founder of Osprey Design Studio. Tell me a bit about what it is you do every day.

Hudson McNamee: Yeah, I mean, there isn't exactly a typical day. For me, it could vary from driving around the Western Slope, sourcing materials, to staring at a piece of wood, trying to figure out how to make it into a utilitarian piece of furniture or an art piece. So it really varies, but most days, I usually have the background noise of Aspen Public Radio and NPR in the background, whether in the car or in my shop. So yeah.

Williams: Awesome. Now let's talk a little bit about sourcing. Now do you source the materials that you're working with? What's on your mind as you're looking for wood?

McNamee: I typically source from old ranches, mostly in the northwestern part of Colorado. And these are usually multigenerational ranches who have like, dilapidated barns, basically. And I will come in and hand-select pieces that will work for a project. I will basically go through an extensive process of milling and making — getting it to a point where I can actually work with it. And then other times, I just get inquiries about pieces that people might want to get rid of, but they want to do something creative with it. Like, most recently, I got a dining room table that somebody wanted to turn into some charcuterie boards. And I was like, ‘Sure, that sounds like a fun little project.’

Williams: And I take it, if you are rescuing wood from these buildings that might be kind of starting to wear down, that there's a sustainability angle to this work. How does that factor into what you're making — the sustainability and the environment component of it?

McNamee: I mean, that is essentially kind of how I began my business. I began woodworking as kind of a part-time hobby, like many people do, about four years ago, and have since then gone full-time. But I have an academic background in environmental policy, so I kind of see the world in the sense of like, ‘How can we interact in a way that we have the least amount of impact, and are environmentally friendly?’

So in my practices with Osprey Design Studio, I'm utilizing sustainability in both the sourcing as well as my operations. So like, making sure that I'm utilizing all the waste that I'm producing, as well as trying to not use as much electricity as I can, and using hand tools when possible. And then at the end of the project with the finishes I'm using, I'm using both, like, non-toxic and like, VOC-free finishes that when, eventually this piece of furniture or piece of artwork is thrown away, (it’s) not going to be harmful to the environment.

Williams: Fascinating. And do you ever feel, especially with that background in environmental policy, like you're trying to tell stories about the world around you through this work?

McNamee: Yes, I think it's a great segue to talking about environmental policy and sustainability issues with different clients as well as suppliers, and (it) allows kind of this avenue to discuss, you know, different aspects of sustainability, whether it be the materials themselves and how I'm repurposing them, or the story of, you know, potentially what the piece is doing.

Williams: Awesome. Well, just in our last moments here, are there any projects that you're really excited about working on right now?

McNamee: Actually, today I am just about finished doing the final assembly on this custom desk, which integrates stone with some burnt barnwood pieces, which is also called ‘shou suhi ban’ — it's an ancient Japanese technique of preserving wood — and some steel.

So I kind of am integrating this multi-material piece to showcase — it's kind of a unique take on integrating all these pieces in a non-traditional way, that's like, not using plastic epoxy or other things that are more commonly used. It was definitely an extensive project, but I'm just about to finish it up today and I'm very excited about how it turned out.

Williams: Awesome well congratulations on that, and Hudson McNamee, thank you so much for joining us today.

McNamee: Thank you, Kaya.

This story has been updated to include a brief introduction to the transcript.

Kaya Williams is the Edlis Neeson Arts and Culture Reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering the vibrant creative and cultural scene in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. She studied journalism and history at Boston University, where she also worked for WBUR, WGBH, The Boston Globe and her beloved college newspaper, The Daily Free Press. Williams joins the team after a stint at The Aspen Times, where she reported on Snowmass Village, education, mental health, food, the ski industry, arts and culture and other general assignment stories.