Meet the Carpenter: Jeff


Photos by JJ Chen

Jeff, carpenter and owner of “Any Asshole Can Do It- The Hand Job”, didn’t always run a business with a humorous, double entendre name. He worked in audio production for roughly two decades before turning his attention, and his hands, to woodwork. While the leap from sound engineering to carpentry may seem like a big, it was natural for Jeff who grew up building his own toys and helping his grandfather on the farm. To him, carpentry was just another form of creativity, and it offered its own set of fascinating challenges.

Hard at work

Hard at work Photo by Jeff.

For the past year he has re-purposed, restored, and designed furniture. His projects have ranged from cutting boards to cat castles, from salvaged shelves to rustic boxes for Vinyl records. One of his most recent projects lead him to Red Room after Red Roomers approached him with Khatiyas — Indian beds known for their lightness and their woven wood– and a chair, which desperately needed attention. The Khatiyas were a special challenge, requiring a lot of research, and even more care. On his Facebook page, Jeff describes working with his hands as something “spiritual”, and for Red Roomers the newly restored Khatiyas reflected his hard work and attentiveness.

The chair-- before and after Jeff worked on it.

The chair– before and after Jeff worked on it. Photo by Jeff.

Yet, this dedication is not what makes him distinctive. Underlying his dedication and ingenuity, is a commitment to the environment stemming from his grandfather’s farmer ethos. He’s carried this philosophy of re-using, and re-forming materials his entire life, and it has allowed him to see materials others have disposed of not for what they are, but what they could be. Added to this, Jeff only uses natural stains and polishes, ensuring that his finished pieces are chemical free. Like always, his reasons for mixing these natural stains is part curiosity and part effort to change our world from a disposable one to a sustainable one.

To learn more about Jeff, his work, and his future plans with the Red Room, read the full interview below.
If you have a piece that needs attention, or would like to see more of Jeff’s work, he can be reached via his Facebook page.

When did you start making furniture other pieces?

My grandfather, who raised me, was a farmer. He always built what he needed, as most farmers do. Nothing is thrown away; It’s repaired until it can’t be any more, and then it’s repurposed. Because we were in a very rural area of Nova Scotia, I learned very young to build things to play with. Imagination out of necessity taught me creativity. From there I was moved to live on a hippie commune. Again, I had to create what I wanted to have. It grew from there.

Why and how did you start? What is it you find interesting about it?

I had a career in audio production for 20 some years. For the last 10 I’ve been living in Taiwan and married and I have always been fixing things in our home. When I stopped working in Isaac [with audio production], I started to make more things. I made something for my wife all of her friends loved it, they all wanted me to make [the same thing]. I started a business never really thinking it would take off, however within two or three months it quickly became the majority of my income. Now, at the end of the first year, it is my home job. What I love about it is that it’s never the same, I get the joy of creation just like I did [with audio production], except no one can download my furniture and then tell me they are not stealing from me, they are stealing from the record company. [That] kind of ruined music for me and I needed to find a source for the joy of creation somewhere else. This fit the bill.

How would you describe your work? Do you consider yourself an artist, a craftsman?

I don’t, and I honestly try to avoid that as much as possible. I’m not a wordsmith and I generally find any self inflicted description of one’s work easily falls into painful pretensions, so I let others do that. When I’m forced to I use humour and double entendre to deflect. Artist or craftsman? Neither, I’m a mechanic. I fix things that need to be repaired or I help to bring things that already exist in the material into the light of day.

I noticed much of your work comes from salvaged, repurposed or recycled material. How important is sustainability and the environment in your work?

Incredibly, part of that ethos obviously comes from my grandfather’s farmer ethic of no wasted materials, and part of it comes from my resentment of living in a disposable world. My use of natural stains and finishes is two fold: one my grandfather always wanted to but he did not have access to the internet to research how it was done a thousand years ago, and two I’ve never understood why people wanted to fill their homes with things that slowly leech carcinogens into the air. It’s part of my personal attempt to do less harm and leave a smaller footprint. We use petrochemical based things not because they are better but because they are easy to mass produce and generate huge profits for big industry. We can do better, we did for a long time before petrochemicals exploded in the 19th century , we can do better again.

A piece he salvaged

A piece he salvaged from the side of the road. Photo by Jeff.

I’ve also heard that you do not use chemicals when treating wood. Why is that? What do you use instead and what are the advantages?

Petrochemicals are used in modern woodworking because they are quick and cheap. Humans have created beautiful objects from wood millennia before petrochemicals, I choose to use things that don’t leach carcinogens into our homes because I am not an idiot. We all have the choice.

You said that part of your decision to think about sustainability comes from “your resentment of living in a disposable world”. Could you expand on that? Do you see the world changing at all?You end with saying that “we can do better again”– how do you see that happening?

I don’t know if resentment is the right word, more along the lines of embarrassment or shame. The whole instant gratification of “I want it now” and the dopamine rush of social media likes. We live in this constant cycle of fear and consumption. Media constantly grinds out stories that feed our baser fears , and drives us to buy things we don’t need. We get the warm feeling of accomplishment and security from buying extra whitening teeth strips because a commercial told us we are social failures if our teeth don’t shine like a thousand suns. That kind of baseless gratification and laziness should be an embarrassment to any thinking person. Do I see the world changing? That’s not for me to say. Can I change my world, my impact, my circle of influence? Yes I can .

Copper and pine salvaged from a factory demolition

Copper and pine salvaged from a factory demolition. Photo by Jeff.

What sort of pieces do you most love working on?

The pieces that are most exciting to me are antique restoration and pieces that combine and re-purpose: antiques because I get to extend the life of something, re-purposing because it provides that pure design and invention rush. For instance, recently I made a entryway coat and key hook unit from cast iron singer, sewing tables, and walnut slabs I rescued from a lumber mill scrap pile. The coat hooks were made from railway spikes. That kind of pure rescue reuse and creation is absolute pleasure.

How did you get involved with the Red Room? Why?
I got involved with Red Room because the lovely Roma contacted me and asked if I could do some restoration work. I knew nothing of Red Room at that point but was intrigued.
Could you tell me a bit more about the Khatiyas you restored for the Red Room? What is your restoration process like?

The restoration of the Khatiyas was a series of challenges and a lot of research. When I first got them they were in really bad shape and I needed to stabilize them, to stop further deterioration. They had a profound termite infestation, and were wet, and the wood and sinew were rotting. I needed to identify the wood and then work backwards. The termite and water damage problems were solved with sunshine– weeks and weeks of constant rotation in the sun, making sure all surfaces were exposed to long, direct sun. That actually took almost a month of daily rotations and quick covers during the afternoon rains. Once I had them stabilized I had to remove the damaged material and start building them back up. I used a lot of hardwood pieces hand cut to fit in weakened or broken joints and unfortunately on one I had to resort to adding some epoxy because the structure had been so badly damaged. The last step was to apply a coconut oil and beeswax finish to seal them against further moisture and insect damage.

One of the Khatiyas

One of the Khatiyas. Photo by Jeff.

You said the Khatiyas needed a lot of research. What kind of research did you do? Was it mostly practical?

The research I had to do for the Khatiyas was 90% practical and the rest was curiosity. I needed to find as much info as I could regarding woods commonly used and construction methods, as well as an overall history of the objects. They are utilitarian but they are also so incredibly infused with beauty, one of those rare things that perfectly balances form and function. I just wanted to learn as much as I could about them before I laid out my plans to save them.

Have you since gone to any Red Room events?

I have not gone to many other Red Room events I’ve been to a few, they were lovely. I, however am not a very social person. I spent 20 years touring, playing, socializing and schmoozing as a professional musician. I’m social’ed out. I’d much rather spent quiet time with my wife my wood and my dogs. I lead a very quiet life; I work, I train, I spar, I love; repeat.
Much of what you’ve said in your interview, to me at least, seems like something Red Roomers would be interested in. Do you think you’d ever be willing to hold a workshop at the Red Room?
Roma and I have been talking about doing a workshop at Red Room, it is something that we will probably do in 2017, but right now I’m just trying to build up the business. I’m not at the point where I can refuse work while I establish the name. That keeps me booked up about 4 weeks in advance. A wonderful thing but not very flexible.

What is it about designing and inventing that interests you? Did you find your ability to create new pieces relied on practice? That is, has it become easier since you’ve started? Are there any similarities between your work in sound engineering and you work repurposing and designing new pieces?

It’s pure creation, that place where you can get lost for days. That ability, of course, becomes easier as I master new techniques. Like any other muscle the more you work it, the stronger it becomes. It adds more possibilities to my quiver and more freedom in the work. Sound engineering requires creative problem solving as much as carpentry and re-purposing do. They all rely heavily on your ability to see what something can be, not what it is.


Leah List

Photos courtesy of Jeff and JJ Chen.

18 November 2015, Vernissage

A private view of paintings before public exhibition.

Red Room invites you to join us for an intimate evening with this month’s Visual Dialogue artists: Ted Pigott and Jean-Jacques Chen.We will be taken on a visual journey of these artists’ works, through curated viewings of animation, illustrations, and sketches.

For six years, Red Room has been growing and changing and staying the same. This month’s featured artists, JJ Chen and Ted Pigott, are Red Roomers. Their sketches of Red Room events, watercolors, drawings, and animation embody the Red Room identity. The Arts are for everyone, and Red Room is a platform for everyone to share their art.

六年來,紅房不斷的成長及蛻變。11月份紅房「藝術對畫」所推出的二位藝術家為JJ Chen及Ted Pigott。匯集其在紅房歷年活動中的速寫,體現出紅房的特色並涵蓋其他水彩,素描和動畫等作品。藝術欣賞適於所有人,而紅房也樂於提供此平台,讓藝術家們能與所有人分享他們的創作。

Follow this link to view photos from the opening of Visual Dialogues II
Monthly artist exhibition series:

Visual Dialogues 藝術對畫
Between people, spaces, and ideas. Two artists from different cultures with be featured in a monthly art show at the Red Room International Village, opening on the first Sunday of each month.

Free Entry for all to appreciate their passionate artwork display!

Usual gallery timings:
Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays
From 3pm – 7pm
or email us for an appointment

1 November 2015, Visual Dialogues 藝術對畫 II

RRVD2-Nov-2015Ted Pigott and JJ Chen
Animation. Illustration. Sketches 動畫 插圖 素描
Please join these two artists for their Visual Dialogue Red Room Gallery November 1 – December 5, 2015
OPENING RECEPTION 開幕酒會 November 1 2015 3:00 pm ~ 7:00 pm

For six years, Red Room has been growing and changing and staying the same. This month’s featured artists, JJ Chen and Ted Pigott, are Red Roomers. Their sketches of Red Room events, watercolors, drawings, and animation embody the Red Room identity. The Arts are for everyone, and Red Room is a platform for everyone to share their art.
六年來,紅房不斷的成長及蛻變。11月份紅房「藝術對畫」所推出的二位藝術家為JJ Chen及Ted Pigott。匯集其在紅房歷年活動中的速寫,體現出紅房的特色並涵蓋其他水彩,素描和動畫等作品。藝術欣賞適於所有人,而紅房也樂於提供此平台,讓藝術家們能與所有人分享他們的創作。

Ted Pigott is from Northwest Indiana, just outside of Chicago, in the American Midwest. After graduating cum laude from DePauw University with a degree in English Composition, he lived in New York City, traveled throughout Europe, and worked and traveled in several parts of Asia, including China, Tibet, and India.

He is now based in Taipei, a city he has grown to love during his eighteen years here. These days, when he’s not exploring Taipei’s back alleys and leafy lanes on his bicycle, he can be found in the city’s cafés and restaurants, eating and drawing, especially at lunchtime.

As an artist, he believes these things are true: Draw what you see. Draw what you love, and love what you draw. Share your work. Don’t think—just draw. Every day is better when you draw.

JJ Chen is a Taiwanese animation director who was born in France and grew up in Belgium – where he studied animation directing before moving back to Taiwan in late 2007. Since then, he’s been alternating between animations for music videos and commercials, working on concept art, storyboards and post production for Taiwanese animated TV series and feature films, and animation work on independent videogames. He also used to draw a lot of sketches of various people to document his daily life and commutes whenever he had time.

As a director of animated shorts, he’s covered pretty much all the phases of production, and is a well-rounded visual storyteller. As such, he also participated in the past 2 years’ Tainan 39H and Taipei 48H Film Challenges, twice as an actor, and twice as director.

He’s been working for the past 2 years on a Chinese smartphone video game company in Taipei on a game that will hit the Apple Store and Android Market in the next coming months, and is now taking a well-deserved break.

In parallel, since last year, he is thinking more and more about switching to photography, which has always been his other passion, and is now replacing his sketchings on his daily life documenting.

Visual Dialogues 藝術對畫
between people, spaces and ideas
Two artists from different cultures with be featured in a monthly art show at the Red Room International Village, opening on the first Sunday of each month.

Gallery Timings: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 3pm to 7pm.


Photos from Visual Dialogues I can be viewed here

Artists Beat the Flood 2 overflows with creativity

Click here for the photo gallery for Artists Beat the Flood 2

ABTF 2 Review in Taipei Times

About Artists Beat the Flood 2

A first for many, a second for a few. Artists Beat the Flood took place at a summertime pace.

With 16 splashing visual artists, 5 harmonious music groups, and numerous generous partners, we were able to launch a wonderful event, and a unique experience where the Red Room hosted a live art and music event at Huashan Creative Park 華山文創區, a first for both the Red Room and Huashan.

Recognition is necessary for all of our supporting organisations and parties. Thank you to venue host Huashan and Emily Wang, coordinator for libLAB Studios. A special note to an individual who provided the essential supplies; Brendon Chen from Escape Artist contributed the canvases, attended, and participated in Artists Beat the Flood on July 5th with a glow of contagious positivity.

Treats and snacks by Granola House
Fresh ingredients for a freeflow salad bar by Dressed Taipei
Bottomless barrel of refreshments provided by 榕吧Rong Bar
Art Supplies by Escape Artist
Sponsorship and support by JB’s Diner
and our usual helping hands at Ripplemaker and Canmeng
And last but not least, thanks to all the volunteers from the Red Room community who helped make the day a success!

The silent auction took place all day as the artists worked their canvases. We are delighted to report that all paintings were sold by the end of the day! Red Roomers, we can proudly say that we have achieved our goal; this event has been a wonderful beginning to what we hope will be a series of live art & music events.

Julia Kao, Grace Lu, Jeremy Chen, Constance Woods, Carol Yao, Ping Chu were covering the event and posting regular updates on facebook. Thank you for your wonderful photos of the art, musicians and the space.


Stay tuned as the Dream Magician sets the scene for Stage Time & Juice this saturday, followed by a special visit by the Red Room Muse – Tina Ma.

Stage Time & Wine will commence soon after at 6:30pm.

Start the day with a bottle of juice or wine as we hope to see you this Saturday!

JJ Chen, ABTF 2

JJ Chen

Freelance animation director and illustration artist
+886 920 83 83 53

Photo courtesy Julia Kao.

Blog :
Deviantart :