Creating a legacy in wood

Clint Sawyer in his woodworking shopClint Sawyer is a lead HVAC tech in Facilities. He is also a talented artist and musician.
These abilities aren’t as far apart as they may seem.
“Working with Clint I always felt that his artistic skill and visual abilities provided him with superior talents to diagnose and repair mechanical systems,” says Senior Design Manager Dallas Hogue, who was a student at UNT when he first worked with Clint. “He can visualize how the machine should work and diagnose the needed repairs in a way that most people cannot.”
If you ask Clint about the skills he’s developed in his career and outside of work, he’ll tell you that there’s one secret to his success: failure.
Clint’s philosophy in life is “I will absolutely fail, but in failing I will learn something new and eventually all that I’ve learned will help me succeed.”
 
Turning Failure into Success
When he was 8 years old, Clint’s uncle was working on a wooden He-Man sword. He called Clint over to help him with it.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but he was working on it as a present to me,” Clint recalls.
Years later, the memory of learning how to create a sculpture from wood became the real gift.
“I started whittling at first, carving wooden spoons,” he says. “That progressed into carving wooden boxes.”
A vase, bowl and cup next to the wood they were created from.Right before COVID, Clint started to explore working with a lathe – something that always interested him. When UNT was mostly shut down in 2020, it gave him the opportunity to buy and experiment with a lathe and other equipment, adding in resin to fill gaps in wood and to create colorful designs.
He points out one of his first resin experiments – a cup with uneven edge. It annoys him because it was looking good but then the resin leaked over the edges.
“I can probably still save it,” he says, putting it back on the shelf. “Maybe sand it down around the edge to make it smooth.”
The shelf is full of cups, bowls, and even a unique created of curved rings that rest in between a bowl and a top that he thought might be used to store jewelry.
Each one comes from a different piece of wood – fig from a friend’s backyard, wood that Clint has found, wood from his uncle’s studio, high-priced walnut bought online. And, each one has presented a unique challenge and taught him something more about creating art with wood.
“Right now I’m working with a root ball. I want to turn it into a heart,” Clint says of his latest creation.
The pieces he creates are meant to be art. They typically sell for $200 or more and right now he’s selling them individually when people message him on his business Facebook page, Sawyer Woodcraft, or at various shows.
Even if it means he sells fewer items, it’s important to Clint that he concentrate on the quality of the items and creating a lasting legacy with his artwork.
“I put in a lot of time and I want these pieces to be valued,” he says.
 
View more of Clint's art by clicking on this link.
 
Following the Dream
Working with wood requires patience, and that’s OK because Clint has had many life lessons in being patient as he worked to achieve his goals.
In high school, he wanted to play the drums. But, the high school band teacher looked him over and said he had the arms to carry a tuba. So that’s what he did.
Clint playing drums at Dan's Silverleaf in Denton, April 2021.Years later while at UNT studying communication design, he happened to see a bass drum abandoned on the side of the road.
“I lived with some people who were members of various bands, so I built my own drum kit and learned a little from them,” Clint says. “I’m completely self-taught. I recently also decided to teach myself how to read music because I’ve been in bands for more than a decade without reading music.”
Clint has participated in several projects but also been involved directly with local Denton bands Steam Engine, Bad Design, Future Self, Cicada Killers, Antler, and The Undefeated.
“Over the years, I just learn so much with each project. I enjoy the self-discovery that comes with learning something new,” he says. “Failure – of course it frustrates me – but it’s also taught me patience.”
That lesson is clear in the work he does, says Dallas.
“Clint uses his God given abilities both here at UNT and in his personal passions and we are stronger because of him,” Dallas says.
 
Always Something New
After a few years of school, Clint moved to the island of Kauai. He had been working for UNT in housing maintenance for six years but with experience in construction, painting, cabinetry and more he had the chance to work with electrician friend.
When he came back to Texas, a little over a year later, he worked as an electrician before coming back to UNT. He’s been a member of Facilities for five years now and appreciates the challenge that comes from being a member of the HVAC team.
“UNT has such a variety of buildings – some are very old – so it helps to know about electrical units, some plumbing, some refrigeration because each building presents a different challenge,” he says. “I like being able to come in and you’re just not sure what today will bring.”
He was showing a new staff member around campus and when they walked into one area, the new person was so impressed by the enormity of the work done here.
“It was a nice reminder that we have a lot of interesting things that we do here – and we get to be involved in things that no one else does,” says Clint, who also has one favorite place at UNT: “The top of Life B building – you can see all of Denton.”