Usually Brooke Wade goes foraging for tree branches on her bike, but it’s in the shop right now. Today she’s heading over to McGlorick Park to dig through the huge stick pile, her favorite place to find branches that she’ll transform into slingshots. “This saw is really kind of too nice to be using for stuff like this, but it’s the fastest thing I can use. I feel a little silly sometimes so I always try to get in, get out.”
Before we went out to saw off some Y-shaped branches– Wade collected 15– we did some target practice in her kitchen, shooting multicolored pom poms at the lamps hanging above her countertop. “I really wanted to make something that was unique and adventurous,” she said. “It captures a mischievous spirit. In the city, especially, everything is so serious. It’s nice to have something to play with and imaginative.”
Wade also collects branches in public housing complexes like the Cooper Houses, which are usually planted with sycamore trees-the best for making slingers. She admits that it’s “definitely an exercise of privilege when I’m coming into this place, theoretically bringing a weapon [saw]. And I can do that because I’m white and I don’t know if kids who live there could really play with slingshots as thoughtlessly as I can.”
Each potential branch is tested by Wade before she begins sawing. “If you can break it, it’s not strong enough,” she said. “If you can’t break it with your physical might, it’s okay.” Gaining more upper body strength has been a happy result of being a woodworker, a much different career than her previous one dancing for Cincinnati Ballet, which she said helped prepare her for woodworking. “Like ballet, it feels right or wrong when you’re doing it. Having a fluid motion. Having had practice in that is helpful. There’s a lot of timing and listening. Listening to the sound the tools are making and the proper timing.”
The slingshots sell for $65 and are traceable and all gathered from salvaged branches. Being able to trace an object back to its origins is important to Wade, as is keeping their rough, natural appearance and being sustainable. “I see the waste and it makes me sick,” she said. “I want to have a way to prevent that and reuse the materials. If it’s just me, I have a lot of control over the labor and supply.”
While they might be the most interesting thing, slingshots aren’t the only thing Wade makes. Using knowledge she gained on site at various studios and jobs, she’s crafted dining room tables, magnetic knife holders, business card holders and carved cutlery– all sold through her online shop.