EPISODE 12 – Jerill Vance of Appalachian Heritage Woodshop

Jerill Vance joins the podcast
Jerill Vance joins the podcast

EPISODE 12 – Jerill Vance Of The Appalachian Heritage Woodshop

Jerill Vance of the Appalachian Heritage Woodshop is talking with us about season two of The Appalachian Heritage Woodshop TV Show on PBS & KET. We discuss the importance of Appalachian history, staying connected to our roots, and how we can be educated and entertained at the same time through Jerill’s second season of the show.


-Stream SEASON ONE of The Appalachian Heritage Woodshop: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCz-B7bFYH02Hn8HuxhueRBw/videos

-Shop Jerill’s completed works and plans to build your own furniture: https://shop.appalachianheritagewoodshop.com/

-Stay up to date on all things Appalachian Heritage visit their website and Facebook page:

Podcast Highlights

  • We introduce Jerill Vance of The Appalachian Heritage Woodshop
  • Jerill describes his show The Appalachian Heritage Woodshop on PBS and KET. SEASON TWO AIRS JUNE 19TH AT 12:30PM
  • We talk about Appalachian furniture, its history, why it’s important, and how we can stay connected to its roots. 
  • Jerill talks about ways you can help The Appalachian Heritage Woodshop TV Show continue to thrive and shed light on an often overlooked area of the United States.

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BG Hamrick 0:00
Hey, everybody, its BG Hamrick. Welcome, again to the Local Impact Podcast. Good to have you back with us for another week. And we’re excited today because we have a very special guest we’ve been looking forward to for a long time, trying to work out an opportunity to sit down with Jerill Vance, who’s the host of the Appalachian Heritage, Woodshop on PBS. And we’re very, very thrilled to have him. Whitney is with me again today on the podcast. Hi, Whitney. Welcome to the podcast to you.

Whitney Barnhart 0:42
Hello, thank you very much.

BG Hamrick 0:43
And Jerill Thank you for being here. Again. It’s good to have you with us today as well.

Jerill Vance 0:48
I appreciate you inviting me on.

BG Hamrick 0:51
Great. Let’s start, Jerill by just introducing the audience a little bit to you give us a little biographical history and tell us more about about you and introduce yourself to the audience.

Jerill Vance 1:02
Okay, my name is Jerril Vance. I was born in the old Mountain State Hospital in Charleston, which is torn down most people don’t even have never even heard of it. Raised in South Charleston. And my brother and I shared a paper route and we lost the paper out when they built the interstate. That’ll give you an idea of my age, graduated South Charleston high school, went to Marshall University. After about two, two and a half years, I decided I wanted to work with my hands. So I left University and started working as a carpenter. Got married, raised a family got a decent job in the chemical industry and continued to do woodworking on the side. I think I’ve built four shops while I was employed at the chemical plant. After I left there 32 and a half years, I went back to college at a young age of 55. And this time I graduated with a degree in Fine Woodworking from New River Community and Technical College in Lewisburg, West Virginia.

BG Hamrick 2:22
Awesome. So that’s a great I love that because it just means you’re never too old to start something to begin something to you know, get an adventure going in your life. I love I love that story. 55 years old, you you know got to get a fresh start doing doing something new.

Jerill Vance 2:39
Education is a never ending process. I believe you can always learn from somebody else, no matter what your age is.

BG Hamrick 2:47
Totally agree with that. Well it’s a pleasure to have you on the broadcast today. It’s a pleasure to have you on the show. I am just as Local Impact Podcast is coming to the end of our first season. You’re getting ready to start a new season of your show. We’ll be back in the fall. So I don’t want anybody to think we’re done. But we’ll we’ll be wrapping up our our season for the summer. But the Appalachian Heritage Woodshop is just getting ready to kick off again with a new series. And let’s introduce some people to that Jerill. Can you let people know a little bit about what the show is all about? The premise and what you’re trying to accomplish there.

Jerill Vance 3:24
Yes, I can’t big the first season was actually a pilot season so it was only six episodes. This, which is a second season is actually a full season. It has 13 episodes. What I do with the Appalachian Heritage Woodshop is I highlight the Appalachian culture The people of West Virginia by examining the wooden furniture wooden relics from the past. I like to go to a place of historic interest and do a intro video. I call it black and white, but I believe the professionals call it Magento I believe. And that’s the intro to the show. And then I usually interview someone and we discussed the piece that is being featured. You know why it was designed the way it was, how it was used, and usually the age of it, and how it was built the way it was built. And then the last part of the show is I go back to my workshop, and I redesign it and build it using modern methods and old hand tradition joinery to today’s standards.

Whitney Barnhart 4:43
Cool, that’s actually that’s super, super interesting. That’s really cool. What do you what do you define as Appalachian furniture like what makes it that?

Jerill Vance 4:54
That’s that’s a good question Whitney. Actually, if you look you will not find any references on Appalachian furniture on the internet. So I have pretty much come up with my own definition. And that would be Appalachian furniture is furniture that has been designed and built for a specific task. And this, this would be a task or a daily chore that they would do in their normal routine lives. But because society has changed and technology is improved, that task is no longer performed. And since that task is no longer performed, that piece of furniture is obsolete no longer made. And the problem with that is, the younger generation has no idea of what the furniture was for how it was used. So I tried to keep that forefront of the Appalachian Heritage Woodshop TV show.

Whitney Barnhart 6:03
Okay, that’s cool. So you’re not just like getting a cool cabinet that you see a really cool old, you know, closet, you’re doing things like that actually served a purpose and furniture that created things that they needed back then.

Jerill Vance 6:18
Yeah, most of the people that came into the Appalachian area, they brought with them whatever tools they needed, and they would make their own homestead make their own their house barn, you know, whatever they needed to survive. And that included furniture. So the furniture was not built by professionals. It wasn’t built by a cabinet maker or a journeyman. It was built by the common person. And when you look at it, and you see the way it was built, and it was easy to understand how they perform the tasks that it was designed for.

Whitney Barnhart 6:54
That is super interesting. That is really cool. Who is your audience for this show? Who do you think what kind of people would be interested in watching your show?

Jerill Vance 7:03
Whitney, when I set this up, I actually worked with the Small Business Administration for almost six months. And they were impressed because they said it was multi demographic. So obviously the DIY or the hobby woodworker would be interested in the show, and if they want to build whatever it is I’m featuring, I do sell the plans for that. But the other people that will be interested in it is anybody that’s familiar with the Appalachian culture, specifically the ones that have lived it. I know BG is close to the age that I am so BG may be familiar with some of these, but if not, then I know his parents or his grandparents would be so the people that lived it would be interested in it. And then of course, anybody that wants to educate the younger generation would be interested in this show. And in the last demographic, is people that like to travel and tour within the state of West Virginia, because I do feature historic places in the state. So it gives them an interest in traveling to some of these historic places.

BG Hamrick 8:22
I’m an old media guy so I an old radio guy so I’m always interested in the broadcasting I’m always interested in in the in the media side of it, the creation. It’s why I love doing podcasting and all things video and audio. So I’m interested in the filming of it. How does that all take place Jerril? Where do you do the filming of the of the show? How’s all that take place?

Jerill Vance 8:44
That’s good question BG. What I do is I find a place of historic interest. And I will go on location and whatever piece I’m featuring will be at that location. And I videoed in Wayne County at the Heritage Farm Museum videoed in Mason County at West Virginia Farm Museum, Jackson County Cedar Lakes, they had some nice historic one room schoolhouse, and an old log cabin there. The Wildwood Museum down in Raleigh County. That is a hidden gem that’s here in the state. It is really great. But I’ve also video on private property old homesteads. So any place that has historic interest, then that was where I would go to do my opening credit or opening video.

BG Hamrick 9:41
When we get when we get down the road and these episodes start to show up and start to be broadcasted. If you’ll keep us up to date on what’s what’s happening on the series. We’d love to share that with our audience and through social media. So we’d love to stay connected to you over your Over the broadcast season that you’re about to go into, and be able to help you get more exposure and letting our audience know what’s what’s going on there as well. So and we hope you’ll come back with us again, too, I’d like to have you back and talk about the next set of shows in the next season that you do as well as as as you progress. So that’s cool. I, I want to let our viewers and our listeners know that, you know, these things like Jerill is involved in our treasures. these are these are connections and keeping us connected to the dots of our past and our history. And it’s really important. He and I had a conversation off podcast a few days or weeks ago, about the importance of even other places in the US or around the world who need to really get exposed to the Appalachian culture, that sometimes they’re more interested in even those of us who live in this culture, because we’re surrounded by it. So it’s very interesting to see how other people are really, they gravitate toward this, this Appalachian theme and Appalachian history and the culture that we all have have known. So I thought that was interesting. Would you like to touch on that, Darrell, about how you’d like to see what we do reach even beyond the borders of our Appalachian states?

Jerill Vance 11:19
Sure. Right now, West Virginia PBS has agreed to air the show, and it begins Saturday, June 19, at 12:30pm. And it will be every Saturday after that to the end of the year. I’ve also reached out to KET, and KET has agreed air the show, KET has a viewing audience of 1.7 or 1.8 million people. It’s a very big broadcast, they actually broadcast into five states. And there they are putting it on what they call their lifestyle channel. But the producers at KET in West Virginia PBS believe that people outside of the Appalachian area, just like you mentioned, are very, very interested in this series. They would like to see the lifestyle of the Appalachian as it was 100 150 years ago. So people in Michigan and Florida and Texas, and places like that would be very interested.

BG Hamrick 12:31
That’s great. KET is in Kentucky. Is that correct? That’s where they’re home bass is?

Jerill Vance 12:35

Whitney Barnhart 12:37
We can start with educating people on how to pronounce it right. If I hear one more “Appalachia”. I’m gonna lose it.

Jerill Vance 12:44
Yeah. That is always I think comical when you hear a national broadcaster broadcasting something from this area mispronounce it.

BG Hamrick 12:56

Whitney Barnhart 12:57
Yeah. It hurts hurts a little bit. So there’s a wide range, I would guess of, of the things that you feature. So the pieces. I mean, so like, what is your vetting process? How do you pick what you’re going to feature and remake and show everybody?

Jerill Vance 13:17
It’s a good question Whitney. Usually what I do is go to a place that has historic interest. Most of them are nonprofit museums. And they have historical pieces. They’re pieces that are documented, when it was built, and who owned it and that kind of stuff. And I like to start with featuring those. But any piece that is original, or authentic, is what I like and of course it needs to be one that was designed for a specific chore. You know, bucket bench is probably one of the most popular ones that I’ve done. But I’ve also done other ones like the Bible box, a buggy bench, pie save, a child’s cradle. Some of these are very popular and the people from the Appalachian area are familiar with those items and how they were used.

BG Hamrick 14:22
What do you do with the products or the items that you make? Jerill Do you sell those keep those for yourself? collect them? What what where do they end up?

Jerill Vance 14:32
That’s a good question BG. I’m at a point where my wife has said don’t build any more. We don’t have any more room in our house. Because of COVID, I was not out actively selling the pieces. But during COVID I spent a lot of time in my shop so I have a garage full of items but I do sell them. I do sell some through Tamarack and I’m looking for avenues or outlets. I do have a website and it does list some of the items for sale on the website.

BG Hamrick 15:05
Great, we’re gonna have all that information. Also for our viewers, our and our listeners in the show notes as well. I always like to remind people that if you need information on how to contact Jerill, or learn more about the Appalachian Heritage Woodshop or learn about the broadcast series, we’ll have all that information for you, when the show airs. Also, what’s very interesting to me, you alluded to or talked about for a few minutes about the plans that you create whenever you go out and find this piece, and then you create these plans. Tell us a little bit more about how, how easy that would be for me, if I’m a casual woodworker to create and what the plans involve that sort of thing, what materials I might need, I’m sure that’s different according to each project. But just a little more about the plans that you make available for folks to create their own during version.

Jerill Vance 15:56
Good question, BG. As I stated, when I see the original piece, I redesign it, and use some of the modern methods and some of the old traditional methods to join it together. Now you got to remember, these pieces were not made by professionals. So they’re not made in the strongest method, so I’ll make them very strong. And in so doing, I go ahead and have official blueprints drawn up. Now, I will say that, in order to be on PBS, I have to be trademarked. So I am trademarked. So that means the plans, which are available for sale, people can buy them and they can build items for themselves. But because it’s trademarked, they can’t buy the plans and in mass produce and sell the item.

BG Hamrick 16:52
Got it. Super interesting.

Whitney Barnhart 16:55
So would you say is there like a certain look, that all or most of Appalachian furniture has in common? Like, would you be able to pick out a piece and say, Oh, that’s definitely an Appalachian piece?

Jerill Vance 17:11
That’s a very good question, Whitney. Most people confuse primitive, and country and Appalachian style. And they’re not all in the same. primitive is entirely different. Now country is very, very close. And a lot of people consider it the same as Appalachian style. But mostly, it is a style that is built very simplistic because it was built by the common man with common hand tools. So there’s not a lot of flair, or not a lot of visual interest. It is designed and built for function. So form was not as important as function, the most important thing was that they can use it and it made their daily tasks easier. So a lot of people from the Appalachian area can look at a piece of furniture and say yes, it’s from the Appalachian area because of the type of wood and and the method of construction, they can identify.

Whitney Barnhart 18:16
Super cool.

BG Hamrick 18:17
These, these pieces, it seems to be a trend happening right now in in decor, that, you know, everybody’s wanting a little bit of old with a little bit of new. So they like a little bit of the classic with something that’s contemporary. So if our listeners are listening and you’re looking for something that’s one of those one of a kind pieces, this might be a good opportunity for you to not only connect to the history of where you live and and if you grew up in the Appalachian area, but also gives you a chance to, you know, decorate with something that has great conversation behind it, you can talk about the history, what its purpose was. And that’s what I really enjoyed. When I watched the clip that Jerill sent to us here at the podcast. I thought this is really interesting, because you can just take a whole story and you can probably dig deeper if you want to into the historic reasons. for that particular piece, you could probably find out Google find Google and find out information about how it was used where it was used. And just it was just a whole historic connection to it. So that’s what I’ve loved about this, this connection with with Jerill and the Appalachian Heritage Woodshop. And the whole reason I wanted to have him on on this on this podcast was to talk about the importance of us, valuing our history staying connected to it, and how he does it in such a really neat and interesting way. And very hands on obviously everything’s created by the work of his hands and by his own vision of the piece that he takes and modernizes a little bit or at least shores up and strengthens to the place where you know it’d be a piece that could be you know, displayed and last for a long time. So all this is for you. I hope the benefit of the watcher of the of the listeners to the podcast and those of you who view it, I think it would be a very, very helpful thing. I hope you’ll tune in to the podcast and to the broadcast as well. When that airs on on PBS, Whitney do you want to dig a little deeper and find out maybe how we can help Jerill get connected with some folks who can maybe help support him and get some information from him about how they can be partners?

Whitney Barnhart 20:24
Absolutely, I do. Jerill What do you think? What is the future of the Appalachian Heritage Woodshop look like for you? Like, what are your big plans for maybe season three? Or, you know, like, what do you want to do? And how can we as the community help you get there?

Jerill Vance 20:44
There’s there’s three things that I really need help on in the future. I know this sounds strange. You know, season two is just now getting ready to start. But I’m actually starting on season three now. Because it takes a tremendous amount of time to build thirteen pieces and video.

BG Hamrick 21:04

Whitney Barnhart 21:04

Jerill Vance 21:04
So, I’m actually looking for three things. One is I’m looking for historic places within the Appalachian area, and preferably within West Virginia, that would allow me to come on location and video. Now most of these places would be nonprofit museums. And just to let everybody know, I do have the required insurance, and license and everything to do that you have have a special insurance, as I’m sure BG knows, to video on state or government or federal government property, and I do. So I’m looking for places of historic interest to video. But I’m also looking for pieces themselves. Now, because PBS is non commercial, I have to have legal permission from the owner of the piece in order to feature it. So whoever owns the piece has to give me legal permission. And then I’ll dig deep into the history of it, and video and show it how it was used. And then I go back to the shop and redesign. So I’m looking for historic pieces from the Appalachian area wooden items, preferably furniture, but it could be any wooden item, even kitchen utensils or farm utensils. As long as we know what the history is. And then the third thing that I really need is, you know, it costs money to produce a series like this. Thus far, I have funded the vast majority of it out of my own pocket, and I’m looking for underwriters, that would help me offset the cost of producing season three. Now I do it on a shoestring budget, but just like I travel to historic places, that’s a cost, not just for me, but I’ll take a crew with me, you know, I’ll have a cameraman sound technician editor. So there is cost involved in producing the show. And I’m not looking to make money. But I am looking to offset the expense of producing the ship.

Whitney Barnhart 23:23
Yeah, well, definitely, if anybody’s listening, and they are excited about this project like we are and want to help out. Those are some great ways that you can do it. Jerill, for those of us that love to binge watch things and make sure that we are caught up on everything before the new season comes out. Is there anywhere where we can see your pilot season, whether it’s streaming or a channel that we could go find it on so we can see what you’ve been up to in season one.

Jerill Vance 23:48
Thank you Whitney. Yes, there is because they have because I am the owner, producer. I own it. Therefore I can do you know what I want with it. So after it airs on PBS, I put it on the internet specifically on my YouTube channel. And I have had feedback from people in California and Maryland and Michigan. watching some of these episodes. So normally what I do a week or so after it airs TV, then I put it on the YouTube channel, and anybody that has access to YouTube can go on here and watch any of the episodes.

Whitney Barnhart 24:29
That is awesome. We will put that link in our show notes as well so that everybody can catch up and be ready to go when season two rolls out.

Jerill Vance 24:36
Thank you Whitney. I appreciate that.

Whitney Barnhart 24:38

BG Hamrick 24:40
So okay, great. Jerill It is a real honor to have you I’m really thankful you were able to be a part of the show today and thank you for being willing to share what you do your passion and all that you’re a part of where you come back and be with us again sometime.

Jerill Vance 24:55
I would love to BG I really would and I greatly appreciate you all. Allow me to come on your show and I greatly appreciate you all. sharing my show with your listeners.

BG Hamrick 25:08
It is our pleasure I tell you that this has been super interesting and I’m super excited to, to dig deep into this and watch and and catch up on all your episodes myself.

Jerill Vance 25:18

BG Hamrick 25:19
It has been we hope you’ll come back and be with us again and watch for the show notes and all that we will provide all that information to you about Jerill about the show. And you’ll be able to get connected with him. If you’re interested in sponsoring or becoming a partner with Jerill on the on the woodshop show, make sure that you reach out to him. And we’ll keep you up to date on things that are happening throughout the summer as well when it comes to all the projects are involved in the new pieces he might be featuring. So thanks, everybody. Good to have you on the podcast again today. We’ll see you next time.