Light and Don and Lesley Woodsmith share a unique relationship.
Pay a visit to their 13th Street warehouse workshop, and you’ll be asked politely to close the door.
“People always ask why we don’t have windows,” Don says. “We want to keep the light out.”
The reason is because of what’s inside, where they’re known to turn off the lights. Don, a woodworker, sculptor and self-proclaimed “creature of the dark,” and his wife, Lesley, have done much of their proudest work almost entirely in the dark.
It only takes a few moments — with the lights on, anyway — to realize that light isn’t the Woodsmiths’ enemy, however. It’s at the very core of their passions.
In the past, they would halt work at the their woodcarving shop and usher all the employees outside to take in sunsets. In addition to working with wood, they create reflective light sculptures from recycled materials such as camera lenses, netting, and even pingpong balls — some of which have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. They’re also avid collectors of illumination. Rows and rows of unique, 1950s-era table lamps adorn the shelves in their warehouse.
But it’s woodworking that pays the bills now. Don — who moved to town in 1976 and met Lesley shortly later when she was tending bar at The Cove in the now-demolished Harbor Hotel — has been carving wooden signs for the businesses and people of Routt County since he arrived. Now, he estimates there are 2,000 of his signs spread across the region and in other mountain towns across the state.
Getting a Woodsmith sign — carefully carved by Don and painted bright by Lesley — almost is a rite of passage for any local company. A stroll down Lincoln Avenue reveals the depth of their work, the carved wooden signs adorning offices and bike shops, lunch spots and late-night hangouts.
But while signs and other woodcarving projects are their bread and butter, the Woodsmiths’ passions also lie elsewhere, like in their massive collections of lamps — now down from a high of about 600 — and in similar collections of kitchen knives and ’50s-era kitchenware.
“When you get to having 200 of something, it’s time to start selling,” Lesley advises.
The passion also lives in the massive sculptures Don builds, which glow fluorescent when lit by black light. While the sculptures are perfectly at home in the dark, where they were created, they truly shine with a bit of light, which makes them perfectly at home with the Woodsmiths.