Over the past few years, the movement to support local businesses has been one of the most important. Coming out of a time of so much uncertainty, it’s great to celebrate the wins. Studio Tolhurst, a Howick-based woodwork and engraving company, has reached its 10-year milestone as of the beginning of this year, and its owners are thrilled with the support they have received from the community along the way.
Studio Tolhurst is currently run by Noah Tolhurst and his wife, Lily-Catherine. When the business first started, Tolhurst shared the business with his parents. His father saw an Epilog Laser System in a mechanic magazine and was intrigued by it. Tolhurst explains that “We went to see one, and it was like magic to see it work. So even though we didn’t really have a specific idea of what we wanted to make, we jumped into it two feet first and just bought the machine.”
The machine arrived in 2013, and they’ve been using it to create engraved wood, glassware, ornaments, trophies, and more since then. Though he may not have used this exact process before, Tolhurst’s skillset was set up for a tool like this. “It was a way to combine my two professional degrees. I have a degree in industrial design techniques, and in carpentry,” he explains.
In 2019 Tolhurst bought the business from his parents. When the pandemic hit, the fear of closure was very real. At the time, Tolhurst had just quit his day job in order to take on the studio full time.
“I remember at the end of March 2020; Noah and I had a serious heart-to-heart discussion, and he said, ‘I don’t know if my business is going to survive this,’” explains Lily-Catherine. The main fear was that no one would be spending money on engraved woodworking and glassware at a time where the world was so uncertain. At the time, the Tolhursts had two young kids (they now have three) and didn’t know what the fate of the studio would be.
One of the busiest times of year for the studio is always the holidays, as engraved ornaments are some of the most popular items it produces. And the 2020 season ended up being no exception. “2020 was an amazing year in the end for Christmas orders, especially because of the shop-local push; it was outstanding. It was to the point that we almost didn’t know where and how to visualize getting it all done,” explains Lily-Catherine. They are very appreciative of the support from the community, especially the folks who have come back each year. “I certainly didn’t expect the same people to keep coming back year after year for more of the same. That’s been a really nice, unexpected thing,” says Tolhurst.
Besides the engraved decor, Tolhurst’s woodworking expands to his passion for music and guitar building. Though he’s made a few guitars, one of the coolest moments for him was getting the chance to make one for a music icon. Both Tolhurst and his wife love the Indiana-based band The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. Lily-Catherine explains, “Noah got in contact with the Rev and made a box guitar to the Rev’s specifications, all decorated for him with custom inlays, and shipped it down to Indiana.” Tolhurst explains that when they got to see the band perform, and band members pointed him out in the crowd when the guitar was played onstage. He says that moment was “definitely a highlight.”
The past decade has brought a lot of unexpected surprises to the Tolhursts. They both emphasize, multiple times, that this is a family-run business, and they eventually hope to both work the studio as their full-time employment. To celebrate their studio’s 10-year anniversary, they have some plans in the works – including giveaways and raffles. To keep up to date, you can check out their Facebook page, Studio Tolhurst.