It’s been said grandparents are the footsteps to future generations. Sixteen-year-old Cole Zandell can testify to that. He’s learned the most remarkable skill from his Grandfather Ray Hall. One that teaches patience, attention to detail, hard work, discipline and determination.
About two and a half years ago, Hall pulled out a lathe and started showing Cole how it works. The machine turns in a circle shaping the wood with sharp tools. Cole soaked up all the knowledge his grandfather shared. To everyone’s amazement, Cole started creating the most beautiful works of art. His very first piece was a cedar bowl that his family still has. Today, he laughs at the thought of it. “It wasn’t that good,” he says. “I was still learning.”
Living on a tree farm in Onalaska with his parents Dan and Kelly, and his three siblings Lane, Will and Kate, Cole is a junior at Onalaska High School. He is a typical teenage boy – he has a girlfriend, enjoys skiing and he loves to play third base for the Onalaska Loggers baseball team. What is not typical about Cole is his gift of creating beautiful pieces of art out of wood.
With his trademark T-shirt that says, “I turn wood into things, what’s your superpower?” Cole creates stunning and useful items from wood. Where anyone else would see an ordinary piece of wood, he sees each piece as something magnificent he can turn into art. Not just art, but a functional piece worthy of being showcased on the dinner table every night and cherished for generations. His eyes gleam when he mentions making an heirloom for someone from their grandparent’s apple tree.
Surpassing his grandpa’s skill in woodworking in just two and a half years, Cole’s made bowls, cutting boards, plates, a rolling pin, platters and much more. Find Cole’s beautiful pieces locally at Buzz N Blooms in Onalaska. He also takes custom orders and showcases his work at local festivals and craft fairs. This summer, he plans on entering one of his pieces in the Southwest Washington Fair.
In collaboration with Susan Clark of Suno Henna, Cole created spinning tops and Susan added beautiful designs to adorn them. “His woodworking is impeccable,” says Susan. “It’s been fun to see all the places his work has ended up.” The fun toy tops have made it as far as Alaska, Maine and Florida.
As a member of Woodturners of Olympia, Cole attends club meetings when school and sports allow the time. With over three hundred members, the club meets monthly to share resources and see different demonstrations. “Most of the men attending are 30 to 40 years older than Cole,” says his mother Kelly. “At first, they were kind of skeptical of him because he was so young but now, they flock to him.”
In his quest to turn hunks of wood into art, Cole is always seeking donations of unwanted wood. He’s currently looking for beech, apple, cherry, black hazelnut, curly maple and black locust.
Cole has a wonderful fanbase and is part of a remarkable community in Onalaska and Lewis County. The Zandell’s are so grateful for the support their family and friends have given Cole by sharing his story, donating tools and encouraging him. Visit his page, Cole Makes Stuff to see more of his pieces and find out where he will be showcasing his art next.
Louis Nizer said, “A man who works with his hands is a laborer, a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman, but a man who works with his hands, his brain and his heart is an artist.”
Young Cole took a skill he knew nothing about and turned it into something amazing that brings him joy. Learning from his mistakes, he didn’t give up when it got hard or he was busy with school and sports. His handcrafted wooden works of art are extraordinary and so is he. Be inspired by Cole and find your own hidden superpower.