A Q&A with Woodcraft Artist Ali Muhammad

StoryWood Bowties (storywoodbowties.com) specializes in accessories created from historic wood, aka “wood with a story.” CEO Ali Muhammad said, “It was a way to give the wood purpose again.”

LEO: What type of art do you make?

Ali Muhammad: We make belts, cufflinks, bow ties and earrings out of wood from historic buildings. Not only is the wood itself beautiful art, but we also laser engrave custom designs onto each wooden piece.

What inspired you to create StoryWood?

During my time at the Samuel Plato Academy for historic restoration and preservation, I was inspired by the buildings we worked on. A large amount of wood is usually discarded during restoration jobs so when we had time to work on personal projects; [I], and some other students, came up with the concept of restoring the wood that was going be thrown out by turning them into bow ties instead.

How are the items created?

We have a very unique process. First, the wood is hand cut into strips that are then placed into a laser cutter. We use computer programs such as AutoCad and Adobe Illustrator to create the bow tie and accessory shapes and designs. Then each item is hand polished.

The research is extensive. Why is it important to only use wood with a historic past?

Professor Dan Vivian, [associate professor in the Department of History] at UofL, does all of our research. That being said, the story is what makes StoryWood Bowties so unique. We want to give consumers an item they can really connect with and we believe we have accomplished that. Our competitors use store-bought wood that anyone can purchase, we offer wood from buildings such as Secretariat’s barn in Claiborne Farms and that wood is limited.

StoryWood Bowties has branched out (pun intended) to pocket squares and wood-brimmed fedora hats. What do you want to do that you haven’t done?

We aspire to make any accessories possible out of wood. We have now partnered with Watersteps and Plant a Tree Louisville so when you buy one of our products not only are you saving the environment by planting a tree, but you are also saving lives by providing clean water to people who don’t have access to it.

About the Author

A Q&A with Woodcraft Artist Ali Muhammad

Jo Anne Triplett is the contributing visual arts editor at LEO Weekly. She’s a past member of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Public Art, was the content advisor on the Glassworks Building video, and has written for Louisville Magazine, Kentucky Homes and Gardens and the national publication Glass Craftsman. Jo Anne came to Louisville from Washington, D.C. where she worked as a researcher and writer for the Smithsonian American Art Museum.



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