Kim McIntyreName: Kim McIntyre

Graduation Year: 2004

Education: BA, Outdoor Education & Leadership.  Additional studies at Vermont Woodworking School.

Current Hometown: Bellevue, WA

Employment:  Wood Studio Manager at Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle, plus I run my own custom woodworking business McIntyre Furniture, LLC on the side.

How did Sterling influence your current career path?

My time at Sterling helped me land my dream job out of college, which was instructing Outward Bound courses full-time for six years. My summers were spent in Montana leading alpine backpacking and whitewater canoeing, my winters in Minnesota doing dog sledding and nordic skiing; plus some shoulder season work of canoeing. I felt like every day I spent in those big wilderness areas was only adding a day to my life. I thrived on our epic adventures and loved teaching the interpersonal, leadership and reflective curriculum– all of which I got the baseline of those skills at Sterling.

At some point, I was ready to pivot away from that work and be available for daily consistent life surrounded by people I loved. My time at Sterling really helped me value community and learn how to build deep roots and connections within my community. I also reflected back on how much I grew to love woodworking while I was at Sterling. The ability to problem solve and create with my hands and learn to master skills bubbled up and I started my second career of woodworking.  

Reverance for Wood

While I was at Sterling I took Reverence for Wood. I loved the freedom of the class: just three wood joints and the finish had to be dry for the Wood Show. Woodworking was new for me, so I took on a conservative project of designing three picture frames for some prints that I acquired while traveling in Guatemala after high school. But I kept coming back to Reverence for Wood. I took it two more times where I designed a chest with drawers and doors, and a queen size bed my senior year. I also designed some independent projects around green woodworking and found some additional shop time by leaving the window of Paradise unlocked so that I could climb in during the night to use the shave horse to carve some small bowls and spoons. I felt like such a rebel as I’m a huge rule follower, but I just wanted to make some wood shavings and at that point, there wasn’t a way to get checked off on using the space outside of Reverence for Wood. And it wasn’t like I was being that sneaky since bright lights in Paradise could be seen by anyone.

While I was at Outward Bound, I ended up making a lot of canoe paddles for friends.  Making a canoe paddle was one of my first woodworking projects at Sterling and I continue to proudly mine in my house.

I ended up attending Vermont Woodworking School in Cambridge for six months to get some formal training. I also learned how to snowboard during a fantastic winter. I really enjoy playing in the snow.

I then ended up in Denver for a few years and got to manage a maker space and start making and producing my own work for clients. I quickly decided to make an item that I could sell online as Etsy was taking off, so I started making tea boxes. I’ve probably made close to 150 of them now and they are all over the world. Another niche I’ve made for myself is making kayaks for clients (and myself!). I take a lot of joy in getting to paddle my kayak and enjoy nature.

Person with Kayak

For the last five years, I have lived in the Seattle area. I’ve been running my own business, McIntyre Furniture; sometimes full-time, other times as a side hustle. I spent some time trying to specialize my business by making heirloom cribs, as most woodworkers stay far away from infant furniture. I did a lot of research into government standards around cribs and sending my first crib design off to a certified stress testing lab in the Chicago area. I learned I was great at making very safe and beautiful cribs but wasn’t good enough at marketing to high-end clients that could afford to buy these handmade cribs.  While that part of the business didn’t work out, I have been able to figure out how to let woodworkers buy my crib plans.  

For the past year and a half, I’ve been the Wood Studio Manager at Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle. It is awesome to be part of such a cool arts organization that is named after a local civil rights activist, Edwin T. Pratt. I really appreciate being part of a nonprofit that is focused on making the arts accessible to all. In particular, we spend a lot of energy looking at how to bring race equity into all of our programming. I’m super passionate about this work and I can trace a lot of initial seeds of social justice and DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) being planted while I was at Sterling. I also enjoy working with a great group of instructors and helping develop the curriculum. A few times a year, I get to invite nationally acclaimed woodworkers out to teach Master Artist intensive classes. I’ve recognized how much I enjoy building community and see that happening with all the students, hobbyists, emerging artists and wood instructors that I interact with on the daily.

What is your most memorable “out in the field” story?

I had never winter camped before and I remember how challenging and cold it was. At some point that first night I realized I was wearing cotton underwear that wasn’t drying and just causing me to be downright cold. That was the last trip that I made that mistake. I learned the importance of getting out of damp clothing when cold. And by the time I was winter instructing for Outward Bound, I wore a lot of wool baselayers. Our final night on Expedition was the coldest. It was a clear night and we definitely had some big negative temps. I went to get some more water after dinner. I had to break some ice on the little creek to get down to the running water. In the distance, I could hear the seniors laughing and having a joyous time (the seniors came with us and traveled as their own pod behind the first-year students as they were the first class earning their bachelors). At that moment, I was so surprised that people could be having fun, not just trudging along to survive. I let myself lower my shoulders for the first time during Expedition, look to the sky and take in the stars; it was beautiful. It was kind of a life pivoting moment to learn how to enjoy where I’m at in life even during the hard moments.

Any words of wisdom for current Sterling students?

Be active in your education. When considering my coursework, I realized I needed more humanities, so I took a Circle Dancing class. I didn’t expect this to be my cup of tea. It was common for me to be off-campus for the weekends, often in Northhampton because at that time Sterling didn’t have an active queer population, but this class was on Friday afternoons. I and my fellow classmates fully embraced this class– so much fun was had! This class filled me with joy. 

A statics course was required at some point. I’ve never been a math nerd, yet it was taught in a lense that was approachable. A few of my peers ate it up as much as I did and the dean offered an advance statics class to five of us the next semester.  

My senior project was designed in a way that I was checking back in with my participants one and three months after their high adventures experiences. Suddenly I realized that I had a full month without the need to be on campus. I think the following week or two I was solo thru-hiking the Long Trail in October. I got physically challenged on the trail with weather and terrain but I learned how to care for myself and learn what it was like to be out on the trail for such an extended trip. I got some great support from Sterling! A little freezer space and then friends as well as staff met me once a week at a road intersection for a resupply.

I cherished how many independent studies I got to do. I had been at school for some time and we didn’t have a high ropes course, just the plan to make it happen one day. I worked with Jed Williamson to make it happen one semester and wrote the manual regarding safety instructions for each element.

I also learned so much about communication skills during my time at Sterling. I had one low moment when a fellow student hadn’t gotten around to their dorm chores and it was their week. There must have been some back history that I can’t recall, but I remember the student being in their room so I took all of the cleaning supplies and barricaded their door with them. I’m embarrassed that I was so passive-aggressive and thankfully the person forgave me, but I do appreciate the hands-on experience that I got in conflict resolution when I was at Sterling. This was experienced in weekly Community Meetings and all the Outdoor Ed classes that I took. Today I use skills all the time!

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Filed Under: Alumni Blog Environmental Humanities Newsroom Outdoor Education

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