JENISON — John Timmer of Bad Moon Studio didn’t expect his life to change over a conversation with his 11-year-old son on the way to hockey practice.
“He asked my why I had the job I did and if I liked it,” said Timmer. “I told him that it was a good job, paid well and had flexibility, so I could do things like take him to hockey practice.”
Then his son asked the real question.
“He asked me ‘Is it what you love?’ and then ‘Why don’t you do what you really want to do?’”
That same year, Timmer’s son was killed in a car accident. The simple question lingered on in Timmer’s thoughts and eventually inspired him to start Bad Moon Studio, a one-man shop that repurposes used whiskey barrels into functional furniture and decor.
Ten years after their loss, as the Timmer family muddled through the recession and Timmer was working at a donation center — his son’s question came back to him.
He began taking broken furniture home with him from the donation center and fixing it up. He was good with his hands and had a degree from Kendall College of Art & Design that had been lying dormant for some time.
“I’m a creative person,” said Timmer. “I love creating something new, but also useful. As I started building these funky pieces of furniture, I realized I was putting my whole heart into it.”
There it was — the answer to his son’s question.
One day, friends presented Timmer with a used whiskey barrel and asked him if he could make a coffee table out of it.
He admits it went terribly, taking him nearly 20 hours to complete the task. However, like any artist, Timmer was relentless about refining his craft. Soon, he was seeking out other used barrels and dreaming up designs of interesting and useful works of art.
His son’s words continued to reach out to him and with the support of his family, he started Bad Moon Studio, where he takes sourced barrels and chisels away at them like a piece of marble until each one becomes something altogether new. His constant search for barrels takes him around the Great Lakes region and he gets to chat with area brewers and distillers.
“These are my people,” Timmer said. “This group of brewers and distillers are not cookie-cutter folks. They are artists. They have to be to dream up and make the unique beers and spirits they do. They are the perfect blend of craft and art.”
Timmer continues to design and build his distinctive pieces in his Jenison studio and dream up what he’ll do with the next barrel he gets his hands on.
“I always want to walk the line between function and art,” said Timmer. “I want to build something that will last a hundred years.”
Enough artistry, creativity and passion to make something to last hundred years would be quite a legacy — one that his son would surely approve of.
If you’re looking for something unique for Father’s Day or the whiskey and beer lovers in your life, check out Timmer’s website.