Sparks of Romance, Peppered with Love

Shaker “Colpo di fulmine.” A bolt of lightning. That’s what the Italians call it when love strikes at first glance.

My friend Joe Dusel, a fine woodworker, recently shared a story that reminded me of this wonderful Italian turn of phrase. It’s the perfect tale to get you in the mood for Valentine’s Day.

A customer from Virginia asked Joe to make a custom pepper grinder from wood that had deep sentimental value. The pepper grinder was to be a first anniversary gift from Katie, a chef, to her husband, Nate, also a chef.

Struck by Lightning

Katie told Joe, “We were married under a tree, which was hit by lightning about a month afterwards! I was able to get several pieces of that tree. It would thrill me to be able to give Jack a pepper mill made from our wedding tree as a first anniversary gift.”

Nate at Katie under the trees at their wedding. Photo by Amie Otto Photography.
Nate and Katie under the trees at their wedding. Photo by Amie Otto Photography.

Joe was the perfect choice for such a project. He’s a bit of a romantic; it’s obvious from a glance at his website that he dotes on his wife and daughters.

Joe’s family is multicultural: His wife, Katsuyo Fukuyama, lived in Okinawa, Japan for around 22 years and speaks fluent Japanese. Their two daughters, Emi and Hana, are from China.

Joe’s Woodworking Background

Joe is a skilled and talented craftsman. He owns a firm called Woodistry, located in Vista, California. He has been designing and making furniture, cabinetry and crafts since about 1989. He studied for almost four years under Ian Kirby at Palomar College in San Marcos, California, where he currently teaches.

Joe creates modern furniture and crafts in the tradition of the Arts and Crafts movement; his work features simple designs, quality materials and solid construction.

A health-conscious vegan, Joe likes to use environmentally friendly materials like bamboo and formaldehyde-free plywood. He also uses water-based finishes, “so we are not spewing volatile organic compounds into the air we breathe.”

Asian Influences

Given his family background, it’s not surprising that Joe’s work shows Asian influences. The ring box below is one example.


Another example: Some years ago, Katsuyo wanted a place near the door to store shoes. In Japan, families own cabinets that are called “getabako”. Over the years, Woodistry had created a variety of shoe benches but not an actual getabako.

Katsuyo’s request led Joe to design pieces similar to “a traditional getabako or kutsubako that can be placed in your own genkan, which is Japanese for the entrance hallway of a home.”  Some of those handsome pieces are shown at the bottom of this blog post.

Good Things Take Time


Despite Joe’s woodworking skill, the pepper grinder turned out to be a small project with a big timeline. It took about a year! He explains, “The wood that Katie sent me was very wet, so we had to wait a while…”

Quite a while!

The handsome pepper shaker turned out to be a second anniversary gift. Joe says that his client, Katie, is very happy with it.

Shaker2However, Joe’s own anniversary is coming up. In the past, he has made “an Art and Crafts style picnic table and benches, coffee tables, shoe benches, cutting boards, pepper mills and a whole bunch of cabinets” for Katsuyo.

“I better get working on something special for our anniversary,” he muses. Here’s to Joe’s creativity setting off some sparks at home!


More Information

Joe’s woodworking and furniture can be found on:

One of Joe’s shoe storage cabinet designs. This is shown in amber bamboo with painted side panels. Dimensions: 33″w x 44″h x 15″d
Nisei Coffee Table Padauk– about 46″ long x 23″ wide x 17″ high.
Joe says, “This is our neo-Arts & Crafts style coffee table with Asian inspiration in natural birch and Paduak. I just love this Paduak! We made a variety of these solid wood coffee tables for some local galleries in various combinations of wood. These coffee tables contain NO particle-board! They are 100% solid wood with natural water-based finishes. We don’t use some cheesy veneer or plastic wrapped manufactured formaldehyde filled panel for these coffee table tops like the cheap junk that is coming in by the boat-load from China. And, we don’t normally use any stains since we want the natural beauty of the wood – not some uniform brown color.”

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