by Evan Miller
John Furniss lost his sight years ago as a result of a suicide attempt during a period of struggle and depression. But he’s convinced that crisis put him on the path to the life he was meant to lead.
A suicide attempt at 16 left John Furniss blind. Given a second chance—“a miracle,” he says—he’s found purpose in becoming an artisan woodworker, a dream encouraged by his artist wife, Anni, who helps him see what’s possible, in blocks of wood and in himself.
John’s chisels are like painter’s brushes, close friends he calls by name: Big Jake, Excalibur and Chuck.
Working at his lathe is a “spiritual experience,” an act of hope. It’s a message John shares with youth in the Portland, Oregon, area where he lives.
To challenge himself creatively, John glues strips of wood together in patterns he envisions. He is able to picture every last detail of the finished piece. “It’s like I have a computer-aided design program in my mind,” he says.
John, also known as the Blind Woodsman, values giving “new life” to wood—just as he was given a new beginning. A friend created the picture, complete with the braille lettering on its frame.
John met Anni while he was studying piano re-pair and mechanics, not believing he could make a living as an artist. “May I touch your face?” he asked. What they saw in each other was life-changing.
This video lets you see John at work.
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