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Ruth Sundberg was the first woman to attend the woodworking program at Boston Trade School, and she was a driving force behind Walrus Woodworking. After the couple’s second child was born, she didn’t work in the shop as often, but spent her time designing, working with clients and organizing projects.
When Ruth passed away in 2010, Sundberg told his sons his woodworking days were over. They knew he was heartbroken, but encouraged him to keep going. “It’s been harder in Ruth’s absence,” Sundberg says. “She had a good sense of building and a powerful interest in structure.”
People all over the country enjoy the furniture and woodworking projects made by the Sundbergs. Whether it is a simple table and chairs, a handcrafted bed, an heirloom cradle or something as humble as a breadboard, clients always appreciate the quality.
Sundberg says he’s always enjoyed “doing things right with wood,” and he likes working with clients, especially those who understand that his pieces aren’t throwaway items. But he has run into situations where the client might not always be right. “Just because you have a lot of money doesn’t necessarily mean you have good taste.”
The Sundbergs also started the Proprius Casket and Coffin Company, creating traditional solid-wood caskets using no metal, glue, plastic or animal products. Sundberg found people didn’t always want a gaudy, impersonal casket, but would rather opt for an appropriate and suitable resting place where a person’s favorite items could be buried with them.
After his wife’s death, Sundberg buried her in one of those simple caskets—and decided to never make another one. He sold the remaining few boxes that were already complete and closed the doors on Proprius.
Sundberg also plans to close 40-year-old Walrus Woodworking at the end of this year. But that doesn’t mean Sundberg is calling it a day. He plans to build a new shop where he can continue creating one-of-a-kind projects and contributing to the community he loves.
“I have to shed myself and start over. Since [Ruth’s] death, three clients have given me the opportunity to do something fresh. In a way, I think my best work is in front of me.”
Watch for an update about Sundberg’s latest venture on utahbusiness.com.