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SF woodworker to expand art business after ‘Making It’ on TV

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Nicole Sweeney creates wood art pieces in her San Francisco studio. (Courtesy Jordan Rosen Photography)

Three years ago, San Francisco woodworker Nicole Sweeney quit her day job to focus on art full time. This week, she’ll appear on NBC in “Making It,” a new reality TV crafting competition starring Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman.

“The show was good for a confidence boost, and a gateway to the next chapter of my life as an artist,” says Sweeney, who plans to watch the July 31 premiere with her beloved “maker family,” a small group of fellow Bay Area artists who have their own businesses.

In 2017, after one of them became aware that ‘Making It’ was looking for participants, Sweeney says, “We all laughed about it, and we all applied.”

After making the cut, she had no idea what to expect, never having been on television before, but being happy for the opportunity to share her work, and the stories behind it.

“It’s a super fun show; the goal is to make art accessible, which is exactly what my goal has been,” says Sweeney, who creates wall pieces and tables with geometric designs and is looking forward to expanding into larger-scale wall and floor installations.

Sweeney, who went to architecture school and doesn’t consider herself a crafter (“I don’t know about hot glue guns and pom pons,” she says) enjoyed the diversity represented on “Making It,” which was filmed in Los Angeles.

“We were like a little family, from 27 to late 60s, all from different walks of life,” she says adding, “All art and crafts were celebrated. It was a magical playground for us to do what we love.”

Another participant, San Francisco native Amber Kemp-Gerstel, lives in Miami, where she works in paper, making cards, books, gifts, and fashion and home decor items.

Each episode has a different challenge, in which the artists worked in different media. Some challenges showed off how fast they were on their feet; others showcased each individual’s skill set.

Sweeney says her own focus on pattern comes from having a background in dance.

“My first art form was ballet; it really made me think about space. Then, I was the art moving around, now I’m creating the art and pattern,” she says.

Her love of wood (particularly its natural imperfections) comes from growing up in Vermont. Her father, who owned a construction company, was among her influences.

Calling herself a curious person always interested in self-exploration and growth, Sweeney went to college in Arizona, to experience living in the desert; later, she went to Maui, because she wanted to see what it would be like to live on an island.

She’s lived in San Francisco for six years (“It’s home now”), a place she enjoys for the creative energy it inspires, but also because it’s a place she can hibernate, too.

While she cannot discuss the outcome of “Making It!,”Sweeney says the show has changed how she sees herself as an artist and person.

“It’s allowed me to feel much bigger,” she says, adding that she wasn’t prepared for some of the feedback she got, particularly from Poehler, who told her that thousands of little girls would be inspired by seeing her and her woodworking.

“That really hit a nerve and really felt important; I never considered myself that kind of role model,” says Sweeney, which relates to a piece of advice she enthusiastically shares: “Power tools are for girls.”

“Making It” premieres at 10 p.m. July 31 on NBC; for more about Sweeney, visit @nicole.sweeney_ or www.nicole-sweeney.com.

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