Freak of the Week - Janice Sheilds

Janice and I have known each other for a long time.  We were trying to remember how we first met and it’s a little blurry.  It was clear that I was in high school and she was an adult.

We share a history that kindred spirits in creativity share, in the small town of Stockbridge, where I grew up, in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts.

Janice is an inspiration on many levels.  She holds a calm, yet, mischievous sense of adventure.  Her skill set, limitless and ever evolving, includes: chain saw operator, car mechanic, caregiver, fitness instructor, the list is long.

A few years back, I was wearing a vintage pair of purple velvet bell-bottoms that I found in a bale of corduroys.  She commented on them and I told her I had christened them my “Jimi Hendrix Jeans”.  That was when she told me that he had once asked her on a date  ~ She declined ~ WhaaaAAaTtt?  She was with someone else – Doh!

Here is how she answered my questions:

  1. Share with me a quick history about yourself and business.

JS:  I started the business in 1995. I had a partner at the time who, was willing to provide the majority of our support.  I went to Canyon Ranch on a one-week scholarship. My application essay said I was looking for "courage”.

Next I took a small business course at Berkshire Enterprises. It was great "nuts and bolts" info and the opportunity to write a business plan.

2. Where do you find your inspiration?

JS: My education is in automotive - a degree from S. Ill. University, first woman. I left the field as I tired of "pioneering".  After that I began the ‘Berkshire Shuffle’, like so many others, working many low paying jobs in service to our tourist population. I worked for years all day at Glad Rags retail clothing boutique, then crossed the street and did the dinner shift at The Church St. Cafe.  My son, Jed, would come home to an empty house, cook his own dinner and be asleep before I got home.

Once Jed was gone to lead his life and I wanted to try to make a living making things.  Jed’s room had been a workspace for me since he moved on. I started making trellises because someone wanted one.  Then I leaned a few of them against the stone wall in front of my house, nailed a ‘For Sale’ sign to a tree and off I went into the Rustics business.  I am self-taught with the kindness of others offering advice and a pretty damn good woodworker today...17 years later, making a decent living- most years.

Janice creates garden ornamentation and furniture using native woods. Her products include arbors, trellises, obelisks and seating for the garden . Her work has been included in several books and numerous magazines. She also appeared on PBS’s Victory Garden.

In addition to her woodworking, Janice teaches workshops all around the Northeast. Her students learn to use their native woods to create pieces for their own garden. Janice’s students’ creativity often expand her own designs in innovative ways.

In 2010 a new branch of the business was launched.  Cutitout Inside offers rustic furniture and accessories for interior spaces. These new pieces include glass top tables, decorative shelving and imaginative mirrors.

In 10 years she would like to be resting.  While seemingly young and strong, Janice will be 70 in 7 years!  (Inspiration #100!).  She has a plan to spend more and more time in Mexico during the cold months where Jed, her son, and his lovely partner will be living beginning this fall.

Janice Shields   Cut It Out   31 Dresser Ave.   Great Barrington, Ma. 01230   413-854-4240