Meet the Makers: Ryan Feldthouse of Feldthouse Family Woodworks

This beautiful cutting board, the Double Feldthouse Weave, is crafted by Feldthouse Family Woodworks. Based in New Orleans, Louisiana, Feldthouse Family Woodworks is a family-owned woodworking shop led by Ryan Feldthouse.

The backstory behind this maker is incredible. But first, the basics: Ryan Feldthouse has established a thriving woodworking business, Feldthouse Family Woodworks, with help from his wife and from his daughter. Their work is heirloom quality, and an incredible combination of form and function.

Ryan has also helped fundraise for Kids Making It -- a nonprofit providing woodworking opportunities for at-risk youth. Given Ryan’s own backstory, it’s a reminder of how much the woodworking craft can impact lives.

“All of my problems led to me being expelled from every school district in Santa Cruz County and regularly in trouble with the law,” Ryan admits.

Ryan’s source of stability was found at a woodshop.  “My school in Santa Cruz, California, had a full scale and fairly high-end woodshop with an extensive array of hand tools and machinery. We were also blessed with Mr. Mitchell, a kind and encouraging instructor who had a way of captivating even the most regularly uninterested or distracted students. I had real admiration for him and genuinely wanted to build at my utmost ability to “show off” my works to him in search of his praises.

“After realizing that I was clearly struggling, my father decided to let me work full time with his general contracting company. While working with him I learned a lot of base knowledge about carpentry, but always had an interest in fine woodworking.”

Having been born into a family of craftsmen and artists, it was no surprise that he would also turn to creating with his hands as a way to earn his keep. Carpentry is one of the skills that has kept him afloat during trying times. “Upon arriving in New Orleans, the lasting devastation from hurricane Katrina was intense to witness. There was, and still is, a lot of work to be done here,” Ryan muses. 

“Being a skilled carpenter I quickly found myself with a full schedule of remodel and home repair jobs. I was fortunate to have a large garage on the property where I lived and slowly transformed it into a woodshop I would use for fabricating custom pieces needed from my remodel projects.”

But even lifelong woodworkers aren’t immune to burnout. Ryan admits that after several years of doing remodel carpentry, mostly bandage and low-budget work, he found himself uninspired with what he was doing. 

The cure was to do something entirely new. “I always had a passion for cooking and had worked in a few kitchens in the past, but never took it seriously. So I decided to try out being a line chef and took a job at a local restaurant.”

Though he worked as a line chef, Ryan didn’t leave behind the world of carpentry and fine woodworking. As a creative side hustle, he made cutting boards. Ryan enjoyed his day job and continued to hone his craft outside of work. 

And then the pandemic happened.

The world was largely unprepared for the pandemic, and, like so many, Ryan and his wife, who worked as a dancer, photographer, and productionist for a local jewelry company, were terminated from their respective jobs. They found themselves out of work and with no income.

This is when woodworking—and family—stepped in and turned the tides. 

Ryan decided to take on the woodshop full time. It was a good source of income that he could do safely from home. But despite regularly working and crafting, Ryan had never really delved into promoting his work. Word of mouth and walk-in clients couldn’t help him much this time, because during the highly restrictive early days of the pandemic, so much of the economy rested online. 

Thankfully, he wasn’t alone.

“My wife decided to jump on board and took on managing our social media, content creation/curation and product photography,” Ryan shares. “At this time, my follower count on Instagram was roughly 350. I only had the account to stay in touch with a few friends and family and didn’t view the platform as a viable outlet for promoting my works. My wife on the other hand, having previously worked as a social media manager, knew the benefits of a strong social media presence and most importantly believed in my work and the quality of the products I was creating. The moment she took over my instagram account, my follower count went through the roof, going from 350 in March 2020 to over 20K by February of 2021!”

Finding out that you married your partner, in every sense of the word, is a great revelation. Ryan can attest to that. “The thing that makes me happiest in regards to Feldthouse Family Woodworks is learning how my wife and I make a really compatible team! We have found ways to utilize both of our strengths in the most effective and supportive ways. It’s becoming more and more rare to have truly family owned and operated businesses. The fact that ours is 100% family owned and operated makes me very proud and extremely happy.”

And the kiddo wasn’t going to be left out of the creative process. Ryan readily points to his daughter as the inspiration behind the unique Feldthouse Weave designs. “In the beginning I was primarily making side grain cutting boards and eventually wanted to get into the realm of endgrain work. I didn’t want to create a generic pattern that looked like the thousands of other shops out there that do endgrain designs, so I sat down and started sketching to try and create something more ‘original’,” he says. “My 7 year old daughter saw me sitting at the table drawing patterns and shapes and decided to join me, so we sat there and sketched. She had drawn this interlocking triangle design that I thought was really cool so I took the concept, refined the image and developed the first woven design.”

Ryan is also a supporter of the youth outreach program, Kids Making It, which his family discovered on Instagram. “Being someone that was a troubled youth and knowing the importance of outreach programs like theirs, I felt compelled to help out. We developed the idea of reaching out to the Instagram woodworking community to all come together in a monthly box auction to support this great cause. We choose one shop every month to build a box. We then auction the box off and 100% of the proceeds go to Kids Making It.”

"We then auction the box off and 100% of the proceeds go to Kids Making It."

The monthly box auction is proving to be a big hit. “We have reached out to companies like yourselves to get involved and, to our surprise, we have received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback and support! We now have 6 companies donating products, supplies and materials to their program!”

It sounds like a creative and fun way to support a worthy cause. Ryan also has some sincere pieces of advice for the kids participating in Kids Making It, nuggets of wisdom that sound like they’ve been taken right out of the woodshop and applied directly to life.

“Never be afraid to try something completely new,” he begins. “Limitations on creativity can only be set by yourself. And there is no such thing as being too safe when it comes to the woodshop.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.