It may have started as a male-dominated profession, but after more than 30 years in the trade, Jamie Ann Yocono has proved that women can thrive in the woodworking industry. Besides making a profit from her work, she has inspired a generation of women and men to pursue creative projects through the classes she teaches at her business, Wood It Is!, 2267 W. Gowan Road, No. 106.
Her journey started when she became one of the first women in her Ohio high school to enroll in a woodworking class.
“I enrolled in a wood shop class at a time when most girls were taking home economics classes,” Yocono said. “Once I tried wood shop class, I thought this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
She received a bachelor’s degree in furniture design from Ohio University and completed a four-year carpentry apprenticeship with the carpenter’s union, where she worked on federal projects.
In 1982, Yocono first opened her shop, Wood It Is!, in Ohio. She went on to teach a woodworking program at the University of Akron from 1994 to 2004.
“The economy wasn’t very good in Ohio,” Yocono said. “I could sell maybe one piece every six months, so I decided to try my luck out West.”
In 2009, she reopened Wood It Is! in North Las Vegas, and a year later, she began teaching at UNLV and then at the College of Southern Nevada in 2014.
Her students have included Carrot Top, Cirque du Soleil performers and Nellis Air Force Base officers and veterans. She has most notably worked on building helmet cases for Thunderbird pilots who have finished their term.
The studio has a 30 percent return student rate, according to Yocono.
“The classes really vary,” Yocono said. “I’ve been surprised. One time, I had 10 women in a class and only two men. A couple of the women came up to me after class and said they were disappointed because they took the class to meet guys.”
She added that some women have taken the class because their husbands have a wood workshop, but they won’t let their wives touch their tools.
“Jamie is a really patient instructor,” said Denny LaRocca, an Army veteran who took a class from her after returning from Iraq six years ago. “I’ve gone on to build a shop in my backyard, and I have a couple of display cases hanging on the Strip.” LaRocca now volunteers with Wood It Is!
In the basic woodworking class, students learn how to make a cutting board, a jewelry box and a bread knife.
To keep her students safe, Yocono uses a SawStop saw that automatically stops when it detects flesh. She said she hasn’t had any accidents since opening the business.
In addition, Yocono does repairs on wooden items and can create customized items.
Yocono also keeps a blog about Wood It Is! with news and events announcements on additional classes and plans to host regular meet-ups on meetup.com for her group, Sin City Woodworkers.
Tuition for a six-week class is $250.
“Jamie teaches her students that there are no limitations to what they can achieve,” said student Lupe Nielsen. “She gives you confidence to go after your vision.”
For more information, visit wooditis.com or wooditis.blogspot.com or call 702-631-1870.
Contact North View reporter Sandy Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy.