Ryan Goff is the artist and craftsman behind Coydog Studios, a custom woodworking shop in Roanoke.
With a background in both sculpture and fine woodworking, Goff creates one-of-a-kind pieces for clients throughout the Midwest.
Here, the Indiana native talks about the family business and what brought him back to the Hoosier state.
How did you get into woodworking?
Sculpture led me to woodworking. During my undergraduate studies, I did a lot of stone carving. I really enjoyed the aesthetic of working with a natural material. One of my professors suggested I try working with wood, for which I did, and I connected very strongly with the material. Wood became a constant medium for me. Once I finished my graduate studies, I began a traditional, five-year apprenticeship in fine woodworking. This was the first time I ever had made functional pieces, such as furniture, fine cabinetry and architectural woodworking. I enjoyed the process and intertwining my sculpture background with fine woodworking.
How would you describe the work Coydog Studios does?
Coydog Studios is a multi-faceted, custom woodworking shop. We specialize in high-end, highly custom woodwork. We do a lot of work for interior designers and their clients; things you cannot find just anywhere. I also design/build “sculptural furnishings,” which combine my sculpture background with fine woodworking, culminating in one-of-a-kind pieces. We have also become known for making solid wood sinks which are 100% functional, using a marine-grade epoxy to coat the sink surfaces. Aside from this highly specialized work, we also do a lot of basic woodworking for our clients. We take in quite a bit of restoration and repair work too, giving our shop a diverse approach to woodworking, as well as a diverse clientele. We are not your typical woodshop, although we also do quite a bit of typical work.
Coydog is a cross between a coyote and a dog, right? What does this name mean to you?
Ha ha, I get asked this a lot. The simple answer is “Coydog” was a nickname given to me in college and it stuck. I have always been interested in wolves, coyotes and dogs and the structure of their packs. A coydog is an animal derived from a more domesticated species, crossed with a more primal, instinctual species. I find this to be a reflection of myself as well. The reason “Studios” is plural is because, although fine woodworking is a constant for what I do, my skill set and experience extends well beyond just woodworking.
How has your background in art impacted your work?
It has allowed me unique perspective and vision in fine woodworking. My approach has been somewhat backwards of the norm; first I learned how to express myself through sculptural form and abstract art, then I learned traditional, fine woodworking and how to make functional things. My passion lies in combining these two elements together, and producing pieces which offer people to see everyday pieces in a new light. In short, it has allowed me to see outside the box.
Do your sons help you in the shop?
Absolutely. Coydog Studios is a family business. My wife, Nichole, does a lot of marketing work for the business, and she is a large part of our social media presence. We have three sons. They have all grown up in the wood shop and experienced having a father as a maker. We have always encouraged our boys and their creativity. Our oldest son, Wolfsion, officially began an apprenticeship at age 13. He holds a regular schedule now in the shop, outside of his education. The other two boys will follow suit, as they come of age. We homeschool our children and the shop is a great place for them to apply their education, as well as find their place in the family business, whether they choose to stick with it or forge their own paths.
How would you describe a typical day at work? You travel a lot, right?
My work schedule gets a bit tricky, because we maintain clients over a region from Chicago, down to Nashville, and branching out here and there. This keeps me on the road frequently. The typical model is me being out of the shop, to look at new work and take specific onsite measurements. Once the details have been worked out, I am focused in the shop, building the actual work. Then it is time to get on the road again, to deliver and often install the work onsite. These jobs come in all shapes and sizes; larger projects will keep us in the shop for multiple weeks, until the project is ready for transporting. Larger projects also typically require several days to install.... It is an ongoing cycle of looking at new work prospects, focusing on the build in the shop, then on the jobsite to deliver or install.
Why did you decide to set up shop in Roanoke?
I was born and raised in northern Indiana. At age 18, I moved away to pursue my path, leading me to Indianapolis, then to Kentucky, then to North Carolina, and back to Kentucky. My wife is from Kentucky and we wanted our sons to grow up around their family there. After 12 years and now with three sons, we had outgrown our small farmhouse there, and I had grown tired of commuting to my shop in Louisville, about 45 minutes away. We began to look for something new.
My mother has lived in Roanoke for the past 25 years, for which we visited consistently. We have enjoyed watching the town transform into what it is today. My wife and I had a vision for finding a property which could have both home and shop in one location. We also wanted our sons to have the opportunity to know their relatives up here. One thing led to another and some other things fell in place and we found ourselves moving back to northern Indiana. We have enjoyed getting to know Roanoke and this has been the perfect place for our boys to experience living in town, while remodeling our future home and shop, located just outside of town.
What are some of the most memorable projects you’ve worked on?
The man that I originally apprenticed under had an idea for a solid mahogany, wood bathtub. He had a plan in mind but wasn’t sure how he was going to shape the surfaces. My previous carving experience was the answer he was looking for. It took three years to complete and turned out gorgeous! It was at this time that we began making wood sinks.
Prior to starting Coydog Studios, I managed the wood shop for a pipe organ company for 8 years. There was a lot of travel involved and we spent a lot of time working in large cathedrals across the eastern half of the country. This was definitely a unique side of fine woodworking and very challenging at times. It helped build character and shaped me into the craftsman I am today.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Currently our free time is going toward remodeling a house which is on the same property as the wood shop. Our goal is to eventually live and work on the same property.
I also enjoy spending time with my sons and wife. We like to spend time outdoors; camping, hiking and kayaking.