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Inspiring Conversations with Paul Moorhead of Angel City Woodshop

Today we’d like to introduce you to Paul Moorhead.

Hi Paul, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I moved to Los Angeles from Portland, OR in 2008 to pursue a career in acting and, like many before me have, discovered other passions along the way. I had so many different types of jobs in LA as I wasn’t yet making a living in acting. As the years passed, I learned more and more about myself and what I truly want in life and from my career.

My dad was a contractor and I worked with him here and there growing up, vowing I would never do “physical labor” for my profession. I love working with people, being social, engaging in the world of ideas and concepts. I grew up in Eugene OR then moved to Portland after graduating from the University of Oregon with a Religious Studies degree. After leaving my first job in Portland, I wasn’t clear on what to do next… My mom suggested that I try to buy a house and flip it while I decide what’s next. “With what money? And, I don’t know how to do any of that!” was my first thought. But that’s exactly what I ended up doing… at 23, I got a loan and spent three years gutting and remodeling a 2,600 soft home in NE Portland. It was the hardest thing I think I’ve ever done. My dad would help me on some weekends, which was a great help. I learned more and more from him and then found my way. It was after selling the house that I moved to LA to pursue acting.

Fast forward a number of years and many jobs in many fields, I realized that I HAD to be creative in my work and wouldn’t be satisfied with any more “for now” jobs. I almost got my real estate license but just couldn’t go through with it. I knew it would take over… I knew I had to create. I had been doing some handyman work over the years and was tired of doing a little of everything – carpentry, working with wood is what I loved. Through acting, I had also reawakened my appreciation for art and beauty in all forms. I came to realize how passionate about design and aesthetics I had always been. I decided that I would be a furniture maker – that was it, that was the path. I soon got a job making some cabinets for an artist and never stopped. I worked out of a garage… then another garage for about a year and a half before getting the space I know have on Fairfax. I learned the craft as I went along, calling the few friends I had who were knowledgeable when I could, watching YouTube videos, and simply learning by doing. I’m so grateful to be where I am now. I was on my own for three years or so, in total, before bringing on any help. Creating custom furniture is very difficult, especially in Los Angeles with high rents and the need to produce enough pieces to make a living and pay your bills.

I’ve pulled around 50 all-nighters to get jobs done on time. I worked 100 hour weeks for the first four years, sometimes not taking a day off for an entire year. It’s been so rewarding to finally discover something in life that I could truly commit to and dig into 100%. It’s also been brutal – but, like many say, most things in life worth pursuing are hard. It’s just been in the last year that I’ve been able to start focusing on more life-balance and now training and empowering the rest of my team to be truly great woodworkers themselves. I don’t claim to be some great master woodworker. I’ve had others call me that and I have to tell them to stop! I don’t deserve that yet, not even close. I’m thrilled with how far I and the team have come at Angel City Woodshop, but I also can see what’s possible in the future. There are furniture makers out there, David E Boucher of Boucher & co. for example, who create things that make my jaw drop. We’ve had the privilege of making some pieces that I’m so proud of, some for billionaires, celebrities and everyday people from the neighborhood – each piece is just as important to me. But, my goal is to now push our limits over the coming years to create things that make one say, “how did you make that? How is that possible?” My hope is to turn more from a violinist to a conductor while never stop playing myself.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It’s been beyond difficult. I’ve had very few days off in the last five years. I’ve had mental breakdowns from the stress of deadlines, lack of sleep, etc. It’s also true that when you make custom furniture, you have so many new challenges all the time. You certainly grow a mental toolkit, but you are constantly needing to grow in your knowledge and be able to apply it immediately on something with high risk and great value. I’m usually overwhelmed with requests and I’m still on the journey of learning how to manage it all. I’ve learned that I can be a people-pleaser. I hate saying no to people, but I’ve learned that skill. I currently have about 60 quotes to do and I know I can’t do them all and also get work done! It’s a challenge to find ways to take care of yourself and give the right amount of attention to your team, to the clients, to new inquiries, etc. But, I’m learning! I don’t know if I could do those first few years over again with the hours I had to put in. It’s still hard, but I’m really grateful now to have a team and opportunity to do something TOGETHER. I’ve come to a place where my desire isn’t to personally accomplish anything or to say, “I made that and I’m proud of it.” But to say, “We are grateful to have the opportunity to make beautiful things for people – things that they will be proud to own… and we did this as a team.”

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Angel City Woodshop?
I formed Angel City Woodshop in early 2016. We have a small shop on Fairfax and create high-end custom residential and commercial furniture projects. I really have a passion for doing our little part in bringing more beauty and joy into people’s homes/spaces through our furniture. I’m a person who’s very affected by my environment, and I think that’s true for most of us. I certainly don’t believe that furniture is the most important part of life… however, I’ve found it can be a wonderful artistic expression and we really take pride in making each piece the most well-crafted and beautiful piece it can be. We are known for our attention to detail and taking the time to treat each piece with respect. I create each piece first as a 3d model with CAD software, I’ve built it before I’ve built it. Finding the problem areas, solving difficulties we may have before we encounter them in the real world.

Making those tweaks until it’s truly what it should be. Most of our pieces are modern in design – I love clean lines and beautiful shapes. Nothing too busy. Pieces that are simple yet unique, something you want to touch and be around. I am just as passionate about the technical details and the engineering as I am the aesthetics of the piece or at least a close second. I want to conduct myself in a way where whether we’re building a $35,000 piece or a $1,500 piece, we know that it will be special for the client and each piece will get the attention and dedication it deserves to be built right.

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
That I’m not superman. And, I shouldn’t try to be. I’ve always kind of had this “I’ll do it myself” attitude when it comes to things that I think I CAN do. But just because I can doesn’t mean I should. I’ve been very humbled learning about my limitations. Learning that there are things I thought I was good at, but I’ve realized others are much better at. It’s more important to me now that the piece is right than that I made it. It’s more important to me that my team grows in size and skill and passion than it is for me to have personally had a hand on every part of it. I definitely haven’t arrived, but I’m happy to have at least recognized many of my biggest flaws, to accept them and to seek to empower others in the business to help and take ownership and succeed, rather than to always try to fix every problem myself. Not only is that not possible, it’s not right.

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