Written by Cassie McClure
Photograpy by Lisa Mayhew-Ortiz
As the saying goes, one’s man’s trash is another’s man’s treasure. For Steffany Sanwick, another man’s wooden castoffs are her passion. In the past year, through her business, Reclaimed Splinters, she’s been finding old wood and seeing the soul still harbored within. From inspirational phrases to coat racks and candle stands, there are no limits set on what Steffany can do with wood and love.
As soon as all of Steffany’s kids had entered school, this full-time mom decided to see if she could still dive into her creative side. “I’ve always been an artist,” she says, explaining that her first business was decorating cakes.
Her husband, Joey, was the first to find her a stash of wood to work with. He brought home old, unused pallets from his workplace. Now, her network of local friends know exactly who to call when they find something they’d formerly have saved for a bonfire. “I see bonfires on Facebook and think, ‘Oh, I can DO something with that,’” she laughs.
Steffany was finally spurred on by her best friend, Lisa Mayhew-Ortiz, a local photographer who felt that Steffany’s work would be well-received in the community. “I wouldn’t have done it without her pushing me, because I’m my own worst critic,” Steffany says. “But there’s never a right time, so you need a Lisa to push you.”
Currently, most of Steffany’s clients come from her Facebook page and by word of mouth. “My clients are the best experience from starting my business,” she says. “They give me a drive to do more and better.”
Generally, 90 percent of her work is custom—with names or dates etched into the work. The only request that Steffany has, even when clients bring ideas from the internet, is to just trust her. “Let me do my thing; let me make it my own,” says Steffany. “If they want a certain style or exact colors, or a copy from the internet, then it’s not my art anymore.”
No two pieces are the same, promises Steffany, who takes care to select the right piece of wood for each project. Her garage has now slowly been overtaken by wood, with pieces drying in corners and arranged by type on shelves. She’s self-taught, and a wide variety of tools are balanced in different works stations. It’s an organic area, with an earthen smell that puts her in the right frame of mind for her work.
“I get super excited about old wood, like old cedar; it smells so good,” she notes. “It’s therapeutic to get away from reality and do my thing.”
Along with the garage, the hallway of the Senwick home has become the showroom for Reclaimed Splinters, and a gathering spot for orders about to go to their final homes. There are plenty of signs, with quotes for welcoming visitors and for guarding against solicitors, telling them, “Don’t ring the bell. Don’t make it weird.”
“My style is rustic and weathered, a shabby chic,” she says, explaining that everything is hand painted with no stencils. Her two favorite quotes? “The best is yet to come” and her own personal motto: “Today I’m me and there is no one else I’d rather be.”
“I hope people feel that with my work,” she adds. “Plus, I love making something where they wake up, see it, and feel inspired. How incredible is that?”
One of her now most requested items—you may have seen it in the 2017 Las Cruces Home Builders Association Anniversary House—is the twig box. The nearly six-foot-long, framed piece has a mini forest of cut branches to emulate looking out into a webbing of bare winter trees. Wrapped around each branch are small lights that lights up the entire piece.
Steffany says the original twig box was a happy coincidence. She had tried to go scouting for wood at the cleanfill, but it was closed. Instead, she saw a pile of pecan tree branches someone had left outside the gates.
“I don’t think there is a limit,” she says of what she wants to try in the future, promising to do right by her clients even when the responsibility of it creates anxiety.
She recalls one project she did for a friend in memory of her son who had died in a car accident. “When she saw it, she was over the moon,” Steffany remembers. “Those moments are special; I made a piece that impacts them and there was healing and meaning behind it.”
As a mother, Steffany’s family comes first, so she requests two to three weeks lead time for orders. As a not-so-secret workaholic, she tends to be faster than anticipated. When she’s not fulfilling orders, she’ll still be tinkering on items that are for sale on her website to buy. She says, “But every piece that I do will have my heart and soul in it.”
“My style is rustic and weathered, a shabby chic…”
Reclaimed Splinters will have their first public venture on Saturday and Sunday, July 8 and 9 at the Las Mesa & Las Cruces de Noche Lions Club’s 1st Annual Crafts, Collectibles, & Antiques Show. Proceeds from the event go towards raising funds for the NM Lions Operation KidsSight Program. Admission is $5 (kids under 12 free with an adult) at the Las Cruces Convention Center at 680 East University Avenue.