PILGER — Maybe it was the years that Maureen Thompson spent growing up on a farm near Pilger, inheriting the farmers’ propensity for building things.
Combined with what Thompson calls a learn-to-do-it attitude, and the experience she has gained building her own post and beam home, plus a God-given talent for design — all of that hammered together has led the Pierce woman into her business, The Flying M.
A dental hygienist by day, in her free time Thompson turns out a variety of wood-based projects, crafting smaller furniture, such as tables, stools, television stands, end tables and entertainment centers, along with custom pieces such as countertops and fireplace mantles.
Her interest in building began in 2003 when she felt the need to construct a new home. It was a clear-cut display of God’s sense of humor, Thompson said.
A woman with no construction experience building a house? She had only a table saw and a chainsaw, a construction manual and how-to videos, plus a preponderance of determination and lots of trial and error.
Thompson and her father, Larry Thompson of Pilger, began by cutting down 2,000 cedar, ash, locust and pine trees, burning up six chainsaws in the process. She’d work on logs after work at her acreage or her family’s farm, stripping the bark with a draw knife and sharpened screwdriver.
When it came time for actual building, she was filled to the rafters with helpers, such as siblings and in-laws, nieces and nephews and community neighbors.
As she worked on the interior of her home, she listened to Christian radio stations in a place she described as God’s training ground. One of the commentators suggested his listeners walk out on a limb and try something new.
So Thompson began crafting smaller, wooden projects. After all, she had the materials and equipment.
Thompson utilizes raw wood, reclaimed barn wood, painted wood, weathered wood and slices of large tree trunks in her furniture. But they don’t receive the typical varnished finishes.
Instead, she adds pearl dust and paint colors, plus items from nature to finish off her pieces, such as gravel, wood chips and bark, for example. She follows the curve of the board’s exterior lines, using the bark-covered edge as an outline, or trims the piece into more traditional square or rectangle shapes.
She then builds forms to encase the wood and covers all with a clear or colored coat of epoxy resin, leaving a durable and smooth finish.
But on one of her more complicated, custom-built projects, she added much more. One end of the 10-foot bar top is pretty typical, fashioned from pine boards from the family’s 1930s barn. But at the far end, Thompson fashioned a wagon wheel serving area.
In-between the flat wooden spokes are slips of color, and embedded into the top are a variety of personal touches. Photographs of the family’s late grandfather, a U.S. veteran, along with a sample of his handwriting, three shell cases left from the 21-gun salute fired at his funeral and a handwritten message from his wife make up some of those touches. Thompson also added patriotic red, white and blue sparkles.
When she unveiled it, the family who commissioned the work spent a full 20 minutes studying it and its unique character, Thompson said.
Thompson sells her pieces at local craft fairs and also takes custom orders. Currently she’s adding to her line of merchandise, experimenting with leftover resin and fashioning items such as coasters and earrings.
Those interested can contact her and also look for furniture tagged with the The Flying LM. The logo stands for the father and daughter team, Larry and Mo, Maureen’s nickname. The way the logo is designed, the L becomes a T for Thompson, their shared last name.