One of the most exciting days in the BCIT Joinery shop is when our third and fourth-year students share their projects and processes with the other students on the shop floor (foundation, first, and second years). The creative and beautiful projects completed at that level inspire the other students and us, the instructors. Being able to share like that builds such a sense of community, and we thought of all the incredible things our Joinery grads are doing out in the industry, and what a shame it is that we can’t all share in their success the way we do in school. The Joinery Grad Spotlights are a way to connect strong voices to the discourse of our woodworking community, celebrate the accomplishments of past students, and hopefully inspire new ones.
Ian Carmichael found joinery through a high school work experience program in 2000. He then joined BCIT to start his apprenticeship training and graduated with his Red Seal in 2004. Carmichael opened his shop, Carmichael Custom Cabinetry Ltd., in 2009. His thriving shop of four is responsible for design, CNC work, hands-on building, finishing, right through to installation.
“There are so many areas of the joinery trade to keep it continually challenging and rewarding,” said Carmichael. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I’m always happy to go to work; it’s the best job going!
Koko Relleve started in the joinery trade in 2014, a month after the birth of his first child, as a way to support his growing family. In 2015, he came to BCIT as a first-year apprentice and graduated with his Red Seal in 2018. Relleve participated in the BC Skills Provincial Competition during his third year and brought home gold. He then competed at the national level and did a phenomenal job placing 2nd in the country at Skills Canada. Relleve now works at Citta Millwork, specializing in CNC operations and working at all levels from programing and building to installation.
“These opportunities have opened so many doors for me in this trade. Woodworking and joinery have provided me with a means to support my family, further my learning and creativity, stretch my boundaries and my capabilities, and a way to impart the wisdom that I’ve learned to others who want that opportunity,” said Relleve. “It’s been a wholistic experience, and I am thankful for it. I will never take what I’ve learned and gained from all this for granted.”
Anya Milligen started in the industry trade as a finisher at a cabinet shop in 2013 and soon realized she wanted to learn more about the building process. Since starting her apprenticeship in 2016, Milligen has been a strong force in the industry and a curious, powerful student. In 2020 she graduated from the BCIT Joinery program, earning her Red Seal while pregnant with her daughter Kaycie.
“I love my job because it is so rewarding to build something beautiful from almost nothing and see a transformation from start to finish,” said Milligen. “Being a woman in this trade has come with some hurdles, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love what I do, and I’m constantly learning and growing into a stronger and better woodworker all the time. My advice would be to learn to adapt from every teacher you have, whether in school or at work; everyone has different methods. To put all the knowledge you gain from these different teachers together and find the way that works best for you.”
Kris Ward started in the construction industry building barns and houses before finding his passion for joinery while making furniture and other woodworking projects in his parents’ basement. He began training in 2016 at North Island College in the Furniture Design and Joinery Program and graduated from BCIT with his Red Seal in 2021. Ward has worked as a bench cabinetmaker and created custom millwork and furniture for Coastal Craft Yachts in the industry.
Today, Ward is a Trades and Technology Educator at Squiala Secondary School in Chilliwack. At Squiala, Ward enjoys collaborating with the school’s Cultural Education teacher, combining his woodworking experience with traditional Stó:lō teachings and culture. Ward designs and builds custom furniture in his home shop in his spare time, including live-edge turning and mixed-media forms. As an educator, Ward encourages everyone to follow their interests and try new experiences “you never know what you’ll enjoy until you try it!”
Michael Young started the Joinery Foundation Program in 2013 and graduated with his Red Seal in 2018. He has dreamed of opening his own shop since the age of 16. A year ago, he realized that dream and opened MJY Fabrication.
“I create innovative pieces with impactful people, including film and theatre professionals, corporate and luxury clients,” said Young. “Large, small, elegant, or weird, for me, everything I make is about fostering connection. I am still challenged by the daily puzzles of owning a business and still inspired by the power and beauty of wood.”
Check back next week for five more graduates in the spotlight!
Breena Jackson is an award-winning Faculty member in the Joinery Department at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.