THE WRITE STUFF: Artisan Joanie Hessler Turns Junkyard Lathe Into Profitable Hobby

Special to HuntingtonNews.Net
THE WRITE STUFF: Artisan Joanie Hessler Turns Junkyard Lathe Into Profitable Hobby

Beckley, WV (HNN) -- When 49 Secretaries of State convene in West Virginia next month, they’ll take a piece of the Mountain State home with them, thanks to the creativity of Joanie Hessler.

Joanie was selected by the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office to hand make a gift for the 49 visiting Secretaries of State. Her specialty is wood turned pens, created using a 50-year-old lathe her dad rescued from a junk yard. Cherry, Black Walnut, Hickory and Oak woods are harvested on her property. The quality of her work has made her pens such a popular gift item she’s tripled the number of lathes she uses to make them.


As is Joanie’s way, there’s always more to the story than a casual observer might note. She collaborated with wood turner and etcher Stan Cook, who engraved the pens with “Almost Heaven.”   At her urging, Stan made a 50-cent sized medallion, upon which he engraved the Seal of the State of West Virginia.  When the Secretaries of State open the case for the pens, they will immediately see the seal.


A Putnam County native, Joanie grew up appreciating the beauty of West Virginia woods. After her dad passed away and she was needed as a caregiver to both her mom and her husband, Joanie started up the old lathe her dad had restored to test her memory. Soon she was making sleek, classic pens, selling to Tamarack, The Greenbrier, Calvin Broyles Jewelers, and numerous fairs and festivals. 


Her business name is a testament to her family connections. With little confidence at first, Joanie always said she was just another wood turner. Her son, Cory, turned her phrase into ‘Just Another Wood Shop,’ and Joanie’s business had a name, JAWS.


A thousand pens have been turned in Joanie’s hands since she started her business, but she still learns something from each one. “I’ve learned over the years that turning a fine writing instrument requires patience and a constant willingness to learn,” she said. “Turning is meticulous, tedious work, but I still find myself anxiously waiting to see how it will look when I’m finished.”



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