Few women ever enter the furniture-building business, yet Jacqueline Sharp broke barriers in a male dominated industry as a female who had few skills at the start. These obstacles never affected her, however, as she dreamed her way into the founding of FORT. The name is a throwback to her childhood fort building days, but now Jacqueline builds custom made furniture using reclaimed materials. Her dreams of inspiring creativity in others and bringing furniture pieces back to life lands her a spot as our Dreamer embodied and we’re privileged to introduce her to you today.
Darling Magazine: What is the premise of FORT?
Jacqueline: The concept behind FORT comes from when my siblings and I were young and would run up and down the stairs gathering odds and ends, furniture and blankets to build forts. Twenty years later, I found myself doing the same on a bigger scale; pulling from all over LA, furnishings and materials to help others curate incredible spaces they could call their own.
DM: Tell us a bit about FORTnight and why they are so popular.
Jacqueline: We all have creative abilities that far too often go untapped. Busy with everyday life, we sometimes forget to stop and explore the little things that make us happy. Through FORTnight, we foster an environment for people to turn off from their 9-5 and receive tactile instruction on creative projects. These evenings remind participants of a time in their lives where playfulness was encouraged. We are incredibly fortunate that the kinds of people who gravitate towards these workshops also gravitate towards one another, making new friends/collaborators in the process.
DM: How much of the furniture acquired comes from trades or disposed furniture?
Jaqueline: About 90% of the furniture FORT carries comes from, or is made from, reclaimed materials. Some of the pieces themselves are reclaimed, re-imagined and upcycled, while others are made from raw materials that have had past lives. The 10% of materials (mostly upholstery, cushion, leather) recycled are often scrap material that may have otherwise been discarded. We work closely with bigger manufactures and companies to use as much of their leftover material as possible.
DM: What kind of effort did it take to make FORT successful?
Jacqueline: It has been both the most challenging and most rewarding experience of my life thus far, and I’m not finished yet. I have big plans for this baby of mine.
In time, because I was comfortable with who I was and where I was in life, all of those ‘obstacles’ ultimately became assets.
DM: How did you learn to build and refurbish furniture?
Jacqueline: I started with a Craigslist ad for a $50 table saw and a ton of YouTube clips. I’ve been learning every day since. Whenever I can, I surround myself with people who are more skilled, more knowledgeable, and I ask a lot of questions. I have found that if you are pleasant and genuine, people who love their craft often love to share it with others.
DM: What is it like being a woman in a male dominated profession (woodworking and furniture restoration), and how do you think that sets you apart?
Jacqueline: I think your barriers are only as strong as you make them. I’ve been asked if it is difficult being a girl, a minority, not having an MBA, not having had start-up funding, not having had necessary skill sets, the list goes on! Fortunately, I rarely pay notice to such things. I was busy working and too excited to feel these things were a hindrance. In time, because I was comfortable with who I was and where I was in life, all of those ‘obstacles’ ultimately became assets. For others, the fact that I was a woman was interesting; a minority, memorable; undereducated, atypical; underfunded, resourceful; and under skilled, teachable. It is all about perspective and working towards the fulfillment of your own potential.
Images via Sarah Shreves