I hopped on a call with Jordan Dun to talk about his creative process and decision to share his art via YouTube. Jordan is from Columbus, Ohio and recently delved into the world of YouTube, creating walkthrough and Vlog-type videos documenting his process of woodworking and craftsmanship. Already drawing in an impressively engaged audience, Jordan’s videos are set to entertain, inspire and educate people from all over the globe. Knowing very little about woodworking and craftsmanship myself, I thought it only be apt to get to the bottom of how, what and why Jordan does what he does.
“What got you into craftsmanship?”
Jordan tells me he got into woodworking and craftsmanship around three or four years ago. He was inspired by a friend’s father who built the houses that he lived in, and “seeing all that he had accomplished with his hands” really pushed Jordan to look into the craft in more detail. “That was the first way I perceived woodworking” Jordan says. “This man building things for his family and for anybody he loved, and the people around him”.
“So let’s talk about sharing art online – how has your work been received, what’s your experience?”
“I’m not doing it to inspire anybody, I’m just wanting to show the whole thing”
“I’m super super lucky to have the attention that I have, and I don’t take it for granted that [people] are watching these video already, or following any of my social media channels. They’re nothing but incredibly supportive” Jordan says. The support came as a bit of a surprise for Jordan who is still amazed by the reception. “I haven’t shared my videos much because I didn’t think people would really care about it. I more so started it because this is something that I care about so I might as well show other people. Because this [watching other YouTube videos about craftsmanship] as inspired me to do this… I’m not doing it to inspire anybody, I’m just wanting to show the whole thing”. I think Jordan’s videos and his art itself is authentic and that’s the reason people want to follow his work. That authenticity translates in his videos, and it looks like it’s working.
“What’s your set-up and studio like?”
“Having a really big place like this makes it a lot easier to work on different projects and do them fast”
So I wanted a little look behind the scenes. “The place that I work out of actually is owned by a college, this massive workshop that you guys [haven’t seen]. I haven’t even shown probably a fifth of the building that I work out of” Jordan says. “There are two huge metal shops in there that have millions of millions of dollars’ worth of tools, it’s crazy!”. Having such a cool space to work in has been beneficial to Jordan’s creative process. “I think to have that availability, to have all those really nice tools… this place is why I was able to get this channel started. Prior to having access to this place I only have the limited woodworking tools at home. They’re not super nice. But having a really big place like this makes it a lot easier to work on different projects. And to do them fast.”
“How do you come up with the concepts for your designs, what’s your creative process?”
Everyone has a different creative process. Jordan tells me that his design ideas come naturally, and tend to revolve around ideas of family and personal history. Jordan is a naturally creative individual. Prior to stepping into woodworking he owned a software company where he learned a lot about visual design. He has ‘always tried to be really conscious of what looks good’.
I asked him what he thought of when he thought of the word ‘design’ to which he said ‘simplicity and practicality’. And this is evident in his work, for example the cutting boards that he gave as gifts to his family (pictured above). He tells me that whilst the cutting boards were made to look beautiful, they were also designed with practicality in mind.
“I’m obsessed with learning things, that’s really what I’m in to”
This channel is a space for Jordan to explore a new medium of creation. “I want the woodworking channel to be a playground for me” Jordan says. “I’m always interested in learning new things and doing that in front of a camera, and showing that process from start to finish.” Jordan is a self-proclaimed perfectionist. “I have issues with wanting things to be too perfect, and I kinda need to get away from that.” He tells me that this channel is a type of stepping stone. “With this woodworking channel I was trying to get down like what is my style and editing, how do I present myself well in front of a camera…and I’m still like unbelievably terrible at that”, he laughs.
Editing and uploading videos is a hobby in itself, and Jordan treats it as something new to learn. “I’m obsessed with learning things. That’s really what I’m into. It’s a problem because that passion doesn’t always transition into execution of things.” I totally get what Jordan means. Sometimes it’s easy to get hung up on ideas and concepts without ever finding the energy to see these projects through. “I don’t have many people to relate to in this way”, Jordan agrees. Having a large following is a blessing but it can also be hard to navigate sometimes. “I almost feel guilty”, he says. “For a long time [my follower count] was something that paused me from making executions on some things”. We agree that there’s always that tension around whether your work is being received well. It takes courage to share your art because it’s a reflection of yourself in many ways.
“So… let’s talk about the anxiety of sharing your art”
“I guess I’m still struggling myself with that – of how to get my work out there without being too critical of myself”
When reflecting on how people might view his content, Jordan says that he tries to remember his own thought processes when consuming content online. “If you think about your own process whilst you’re going through things on the internet… you consume something, and if you don’t like it you can leave immediately.”
We discuss the idea that art is subjective and that no art, no matter how good, will appeal to everybody. Jordan is quick to pick up on the idea that there’s only things to be gained when sharing your art. “People kinda live in their own bubble and if you put out some content that they don’t agree with it doesn’t really matter because they’re consistently in their bubble and it doesn’t really… they’re just gonna forget about it. It means nothing. It doesn’t impact either you or the other person receiving it. But if you can put out something they do care about then that does have an impact on another person and that is really cool. That impact looks a lot larger than maybe somebody not liking your content.”
“One thing I’ve tried to care less and less about is the numbers”
Jordan and I also talked about keeping things in perspective and how important that is for creation. “One thing I’ve tried to care less and less about is the numbers”, he tells me. “Especially in America, we’re so used to instant gratification. If people aren’t paying attention to your work right away that doesn’t mean that you aren’t doing good stuff.” Art is a constant process of experimentation and taking risks. Instead of focussing on the uptake “you could spend time getting better, and working on your craft and that’s how anything that you get started on works”, Jordan says.
We talked about how important it is to have pin-sharp focus on why you’re creating and the reason behind your art. If art is authentic and you’re sharing something personal, then it will always be successful. I mentioned that numbers are important for business, and that we should sometimes factor this in.. but there’s a balance. “Just because you’re not getting big numbers it doesn’t mean people aren’t liking your stuff – sometimes it just takes a little bit of time”, Jordan agrees. Art has intrinsic worth, whether or not it is received well or received at all. Woodworking especially, being a physical product, is out there in the physical world forever for people to admire. Jordan tells me that this physical aspect is something that really motivates his passion for woodworking and craftsmanship.
“So what’s next for you and the channel?”
Jordan’s looking to perhaps expand his content at some point in the future to cover more areas of creating, perhaps even moving into cool ‘how to’ type videos. “I’m thinking of starting another YouTube channel where I show myself trying to learn new things – even if it’s something simple like learning how to do a backflip”, Jordan laughs. “Right now I’m just having fun with [the woodworking channel], and still figuring out what I want to do with it! I want this to be an interesting side-fact about me, just something that I’m in to.”
Again, we circle back to just how amazingly supportive his viewers are. “I can see a video with like 5000/6000 views, and it’s so weird to think of someone actually sitting there watching”, Jordan says. I’m certain people will continue to support Jordan and all of his content for years to come. You can watch his work for yourself here.
Words by Jay Whitehead
Photos provided by Jordan Dun