Rochelle Cunningham, management assistant and office coordinator for the Communication and Media Department at Boise State, has another world she lives in outside of work. This world is that of “The Wand Woman.” In this world is where she is able to create handmade wooden wares, such as wands and pens, out of collected local wood.
“She’s a fantastic person who is interested in helping students and supporting the local community. I’m super impressed with her entrepreneurial spirit,” said Rulon Wood, a coworker and close friend of Cunningham.
Her passion and skill for woodworking stretches back to her childhood, where it all began.
“My father was a carpenter, I was always daddy’s little helper so working around wood all my life, [the skill]was just kinda naturally there,” Cunningham said. “It just evolved from [a]little shed to a full on woodshop.”
Starting from the first pen, Cunningham was set on giving wood a second life. With this in mind, she set out to find a process of collecting and creating that worked for her.
“It’s a very interesting process, in which she gathers wood and works it on a lathe to create unique patterns. Just an amazing artist.” Wood said.
The different types of wood she uses to make all of her wares is rescued, repurposed and restored.
“I collect it,” Cunningham said. “Anytime I’m up in the mountains I am collecting sticks (and) hunting for wood. I love to give wood a second life. I wouldn’t say it’s all local, but about 98 percent of it is. That’s important to me.”
Chances are that if you purchase an item from The Wand Woman, you are getting a handmade piece made from local Boise wood.
“Each piece is unique, created from pure imagination and heart. I have seen how she easily finds a wand that fits the hand that seeks it,” said Chauntain Shields, a close friend and former classmate of Cunningham’s.
With a full-time position here at Boise State, Cunningham took the summer months and used that time to build her business from the ground up. She started by selling pens at different festivals in the area, but wands were never on her radar.
“[People] would pick up one of my pens and say, ‘Oh, you’d make great wands.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, nobody is gonna buy wands, because Harry Potter’s over.’ [But] I had no idea how generational ‘Harry Potter’ was,” Cunningham said.
Things really took off in 2017 at the local Goddess Festival held at Julia Davis Park.
“I took a shot at Goddess Fest and I made several dozen [wands]and sold out right away,” Cunningham said. “They just flew off the shelves. The wands truly chose me. A friend bought the domain name and said, ‘You need to be the Wand Woman. There’s not as much competition as a woman wandmaker, so I kinda got a niche there and I like that.”
But, even with obstacles, Cunningham pressed forward, getting her brand as The Wand Woman out to the locals. Being at these events and seeing her clients rewards her for her hard work over the years of building her business.
“I never get tired of that look on people’s face when they show up and go “wands!”. I think I could do this for another hundred years and I’d never get tired of that look,” Cunningham said. “I just love being part of giving that magic back to, all ages. There is just something that really draws people to magic. We need that in our life.”
Society over the years has seemingly lost some of the imagination and wonder surrounding the idea of magic, but with The Wand Woman and her beautiful creations, a little bit of that magic can be returned. Each handmade creation has had heart and soul put into it.
“When Rochelle is weaving her magic into her wooden creations, her creativity and passion pulls you in like gravity. Each piece is unique, created from pure imagination and heart,” Shields said. “Once the wand has been purchased, smiles abound and a whole lot of swishing, flicking, and incantations ensue. No one who buys a wand from The Wand Woman has been disappointed.”
Bringing this sense of magic back with every wand she sells is one just one of the values her brand upholds, and the other is her effort to bring homemade items back into everyday life.
“We live in a time where things aren’t as hand-crafted as they used to be and to be able to plant that seed in a child’s mind that how important it is that people make things, there is just a really amazing feeling about that,” Cunningham said. “That’s when it really resonated what I was doing was more than just a business.”