About Koka-Bora Creations
Read this section to find out what got me into woodworking, what I do in the community, and a little about me.
I often get the questions of "How did you start?", "What got you into woodworking?", or "How did you learn to do all that?" and my answer has always been this:
When I moved to Kitchener-Waterloo area at the end of 2004, I rented an apartment which didn't have any closet space in the bedroom or kitchen counter space. The apartment used the old-fashioned radiators and this also limited the usable space. I looked around at furniture stores for anything that would fit my needs, but everything I saw was either too big or too expensive. It was then that I decided to build my own IKEA style furniture.
I purchased a few tools from Home Hardware and Walmart (yes, Walmart - they had a bag of 3 tools for $50 back in the day) and I set off to create a wardrobe. Cutting the huge sheets of melamine was fun for the store - I was brought up using centimetres and milimetres, but the store preferred inches and feet even though they had measuring tapes for both scales. With a little patience, all was done and I used the living room of the apartment as a workshop. I must say the wardrobe turned out quite well and I still use it to this day.
After the wardrobe, I did my kitchen counter top; and the leftover material was used to make a small corner bookcase, end tables, and a shelf. It wasn't too long before I bought real woodworking machinery and did my first custom order for a chest of drawers followed by a bathroom vanity. However, doing big projects from a living room of an apartment building was not quite comfortable - for me or for the neighbours. I needed a dedicated space and spent four months looking for a house with a good-sized garage which I could use as my workshop.
I found that house and spent an entire year renovating the workshop space: insulation, drywall, electrical, heat, ventilation, and flooring. I had the chance to build the shop according to my specifications, and I did. This workshop has been my headquarters ever since.
As far as how I learned how to do things, a quote by Albert Einstein comes to mind: "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand."
I was never formally trained in woodworking. Aside from a few one-day seminars, all that I've come to know has been through trial and "terror" method. It is my belief that the knowledge I have gained from experimentation has made me better at what I do. After all, you can't improve or grow if you can't push a few boundaries.
At first, I focused on custom made furniture. I have created bathroom vanities, chest of drawers, and blanket boxes. However, as time progressed I shifted my focus to more personal items that can be used daily. That’s when I discovered the writing instruments: wooden bodied pencils; rollerball, fountain, and ballpoint pens. Over the years they have become my best-selling item so far. In addition to that, I have also made home décor items: various wooden bodied lamps, or tree burls that have been made into wall decoration; and kid/teenager friendly items like games and longboards.
About the time when I was discovering and perfecting the writing instruments, I got a call from the St. Jacob’s Farmer’s market as a spot opened. August 1, 2013 was my first day as an official vendor. Granted, my booth at the time was quite poor, but I had the grandiose idea of slowly adding products and custom display cases. That idea was short lived as the market building where I was situated caught fire on the Labour day weekend (September) that year.
Despite the devastation – and yes, I lost product there – I think it was for the better. Firstly, I didn’t lose my ability nor tools to make things. Secondly, I attended my first craft show where I got several ideas of how to set up and organize my booth. The market reopened in December and this time, I was ready: new products; new booth set up; new product displays. To this day, the market is my main location where people can come and see things in person.
My first craft show was in November 2013 in Hamilton, Ontario. I must say, I have appeared at a studio tour in Kitchener-Waterloo, but the setup of a studio tour is different than that of a craft show. Studio tours mainly centre around the working space of the artist, but the craft show is the place where you only have your final product and you make first impression with how you display and present yourself. Encouraged by the success, I spent 2014 attending some shows. However, just like with any experiment, the results were not exemplary. This caused me to take 2015 to reinvent myself again and in 2016, with some guidance, I’ve been part of the several craft shows in southwestern Ontario and Niagara region. I repeated that in 2017 making a list of core shows that I will definitely apply each year along with other shows that I’ve never been to. I enjoy the craft show scene as I get to meet all kinds of people and basically tell them about my art.
In the community
Since 2005, every year I have volunteered a week at the Habitat for Humanity build in the Kitchener-Waterloo region. My philosophy: I’ve had a roof over my head and as long as I can use my hands, I will help others have a roof over their heads. The way I got introduced to the Habitat for Humanity was through my day job where the company sponsored units in the region. The catch was that the company only provided one day to volunteer at the build; the rest are vacation days. A week is enough time to see how everything you do on the build fits together. Through the years, I have done jobs that involve framing, erecting the walls, putting the roof trusses, shingling, adding insulation, installing the siding, and helping with the HVAC system. Being at the job site and doing all the varied tasks helped me acquire skills that I could also use in my home maintenance or renovation.
My story begins on November 8, 1979 when I was born (or maybe I landed) in Sofia, Bulgaria. Fast forward to Sept 1, 1999 at age 19 when I made to Canada to study Finance and Accounting. I’ve always been fascinated about the 1’s and 9’s in the date and my age and wondered if that has some sort of an omen behind it.
Aside from woodworking, I am an avid rock climber. Most of the climbing I do is in an indoor rock climbing gym, but I have climbed real rocks and boulders in Gravenhurst, Ontario. I prefer bouldering problems as they require more technique and finesse.
In the non-winter seasons, I also take out my bicycle and go to work or go on slightly longer rides – between 40 to 70km – in the back roads of Waterloo region. I must say, the biggest life-threatening experience I’ve had so far was not from all the machinery in my workshop, but it was on the bicycle when I was hit by a car on my way to work. The irony was that is happened on a ‘Bike to Work’ day where every radio station is reminding all drivers to look out for cyclists. Fortunately, and to the amazement of every medical professional, I walked away from that with just a minor bruising and muscle injury. That however, didn’t stop me from riding and I have continued with riding and I have discovered the advantages of a road bike when compared to mountain bike.