The Knotty Elm delivers handcrafted wood pieces for home décor.
Whittling away at his next masterpiece in the comfort of his own garage is Maple Grove’s Chris Pashina, owner of The Knotty Elm. Handcrafting a variety of unique wood items from bowls to cutting boards, Pashina says he has always enjoyed the creation process—from start to finish.
What started as a hobby in his teenage years has since flourished into so much more. Learning the ins and outs of being an entrepreneur from his father, Pashina says they mastered how to manage and sell their specialty goods together through their own small construction company that focused on heating, ventilation and air conditioning. He translated those experiences into the work he does as a crafter—a skill he hopes to pass down to his two daughters. “I want them to learn how to produce things for themselves,” he says.
Pashina’s children are not the only ones who learn these lessons. As a technical education teacher at Columbia Heights High School, he has had the pleasure of teaching wood crafting and woodworking for more than 12 years. It’s a role that allows him to showcase his passion, talent and expertise.
Pashina started The Knotty Elm as a way to share his handcrafted products with others. He sells his creations via Instagram and at local markets, and he also creates a plethora of custom pieces. Regardless of where or how the items are sold, one element ties them together—uniqueness. “You could have the same tree, piece of wood or provider, and it could be completely different from the next piece,” he says. “You can get two different things out of the same piece.” And that’s the beauty of the craft. For Pashina, he says he never knows what a piece will look like until it is finished. With a blueprint in mind, he lets the wood run its course and drive the creative process.
Typically, Pashina works with wood from maple, walnut and poplar trees. He usually does not have a say in the type of wood he receives because materials are sourced from arborators in Iowa and Utah, who salvage their material from fallen trees. Taking whatever is available, Pashina reclaims the wood to create functionally beautiful pieces.
In addition to his minimal waste approach to sourcing materials, Pashina also makes his own finishes in-house to ensure safety and durability of his hardwood products. (They do not contain volatile organic compounds.) “If it has a very strong smell to it, I won’t use it because I want my products to be food safe,” he says.
Though Pashina’s inventory includes smaller items, he hopes to continue experimenting with larger functional items, such as tables and other types of furniture.