By Molly Cerreta Smith
Local woodworking artist Monica Robles was quite literally born into her love of this creative craft. Growing up in Somerton, Arizona, Robles remembers her father building additions to their house and working on cars.
“My dad was an amazing man, a true craftsman,” she says, “My parents built the house I grew up in…without any experience, my mom learned how to put up drywall and framing. I feel like this is why I love making things with my hands and the feeling of creating makes me happy.”
After attending UofA, where she graduated with a BA in graphic design, Robles moved to Phoenix. In September of 2011, she collaboratively launched The Lab on Roosevelt Row, which became an explosion of creative energy in downtown Phoenix. “This was the stepping stone that brought me closer and was how I became more involved with the Phoenix art community,” she says. “I’ve been lucky to surround myself with a close group of creative women who have pushed me to be where I am today. Phoenix has a lot of amazing people and artists. It’s wonderful how the community works together.”
Robles evolved from creating mixed media artwork to custom furniture making about five years ago and with no formal training. She took on a few commissions making benches and small tables. “From there it was no turning back! I got so excited to learn how to make bigger pieces,” she says. Robles also did an internship in North Carolina with a friend who is a high-end modern furniture maker. “The process of making furniture from start to finish was quite an eye opener and learning joinery and other skills that I brought back home to my own furniture making.”
Robles takes inspiration from old houses, often “treasure hunts” for wood in old barns in North Carolina. Her work has recently gotten noticed by West Elm, which is now carrying her pet beds. “They contacted me and wanted to include me as a #westelmlocal,” she says. “This is my first time having my furniture pieces in a retail store, so it is super exciting. Currently, I have two small pet beds available for purchase or people can contact me to design a custom pet bed to complement their home or office.”
Robles admits she loves to lose herself in the process of creating custom one-of-a-kind pieces. “I usually throw my wood scraps onto the floor and start putting a pattern together. There have been times where I step back and feel it’s not the right one. So, I start all over again and sometimes it’s something completely different than what I intended it to be at the beginning. My favorite part of it is once I find the design that I believe the client will love, I step back and admire the beautiful pattern. I love to create furniture that is nothing you would find at a typical furniture store. I try to add accents colors and patterns that are unique in each piece that make it look visually pleasing and in turn make it more of a work of art.” While her works are one of a kind, Robles stresses that so is she. “I want to be known as creative Hispanic queer woman in the art community who has inspired someone or many to do what they love,” says Robles.