LEWISVILLE — Jim Tobias finds parallels between coaching basketball and working with wood.

“It’s the process of taking this and this and coming out with a result,” Tobias said. “And with sports teams, you have all these different pieces that you try to get to function well together.”

Tobias was an athletics director and basketball coach at Forsyth Country Day School for about 20 years. He later worked as the facilities director for the school, getting the job because of his meticulousness, a characteristic that serves him well as a woodworker. He retired in 2011.

A native of Pinewood, S.C., Tobias thought he enjoyed refinishing furniture until he decided to repair a kitchen cabinet for his mother. The back of the cabinet was falling apart so he decided to put it back together.

“It was more fun than stripping and refinishing,” Tobias said. “I got really interested in building.”

Tobias talked about his craft inside the cavernous shop he built in his Lewisville home. It’s filled with all manner of tools, bits of wood, measuring tape, drill bits, markers and sheets of copper that he uses to make the top of boxes.

“I’m a wood addict,” said Tobias, who said he often falls asleep thinking of his next projects. “It’s relaxing to come down here and just get lost. It might be for an hour and a half. It might be for seven hours.”

Tobias is a member of Twin City Artisans and goes to four to five shows a year to market his products to local audiences. He also has a website, www.hjtwoods.com.

Mostly, he makes boxes and tables. He also has a unique piece of jewelry, a pendant made of sweet-gum balls, those spiky clusters that drop in the fall and are a bane to barefooted folks everywhere.

Q: How would you describe your art?

Answer: It mostly revolves around wood or items from trees (cones, seed pods, etc). Some stones for accents or crushed for inlay.

If I am making a specific piece for a certain look/appeal, I will look for pieces of wood/grain that I feel best demonstrate that look/appeal. Sometimes I start with a particular piece of wood (unusual grain or color combination or burls) and come up with a piece that I feel the wood dictates.

One thing that is a common thread through everything I make is I want it to be user friendly/practical without taking away from the aesthetics.

Q: How have you evolved as an artist?

Answer: I started out refinishing older pieces 45 years ago and soon moved to building/making things. As the years passed, I became more curious and willing to try new ideas/processes (veneers, inlays, curved pieces, mixing media, etc.)

Q: Who has influenced your art?

Answer: I don’t feel a particular strong attraction to any one artist/style. I am more inspired by the wood itself than any particular style. I am forever amazed by the variations in grains and colors in the woods of the world. The warm attraction of a well-finished piece of wood is an inspiration in and of itself.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

Answer: Keeping a balance between shop time and everything else. I can get lost for hours in my work in the shop and have to make a point to cut off the lights and shut the door.

Q: What does art do for you?

Answer: It gives me a feeling of freedom to make whatever I want, out of whatever I want, and have it look like whatever I want. I hope others to like it, but in the end, the personal satisfaction of finishing a piece and feeling that it turned out the way I wanted it to is very, very satisfying.

Q: Any advice for other artists?

Answer: Be brave and try new techniques. It will amaze you what all you can do if you are willing to make mistakes along the way. And lastly, BE DETERMINED to get it the way you want it so that you are satisfied with the end result.

Wear a mask when appropriate.

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Lisa O’Donnell writes about artists — visual, musical, literary and more — weekly in relish. Send your story ideas to lodonnell@wsjournal.com or call 336-727-7420.

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