Meet Mason Spielman, the rebel mind behind Rebel Wood
Heads Lifestyle: Let’s start with the name of your company, Rebel Wood. Do you believe every entrepreneur has a rebellious side?
Mason Spielman: In my experience, creative people have a more rebellious nature and tend to struggle more with authority. I don’t believe you need to be rebellious in a radical or irresponsible sense as the term may imply, but you definitely need to be brutally honest with yourself and learn to appreciate risk and uncertainty over structure and uniformity. Entrepreneurship is a very creative endeavour and above all allows me to be the master of my time and schedule, which is hard to obtain working for someone else. I’ve always had a very difficult relationship with institutions. I did well in school but I was often bored with the curriculum and felt overwhelmed with rules and restrictions. I never liked being told what to do, how to do it and when to do it. That anti-authoritarian nature followed me into my first job and subsequent jobs, and is ultimately what directed me towards entrepreneurship.
I’ve always had a very difficult relationship with institutions. I did well in school but I was often bored with the curriculum and felt overwhelmed with rules and restrictions.
HL: Your love of woodworking started in high school wood shop. What draws you to woodworking?
MS: It’s an amazing feeling, taking an idea or concept and giving it life in the physical world. Whether it’s cultivating plants, creating music, painting, writing a novel, or woodworking it’s all very therapeutic. Wood is such a versatile material and no piece is the same. Each species of wood has its own unique attributes. Once a project is finished and you stand back to admire what you’ve built it makes all the splinters, blisters and bruises worth it.
HL: Prior to launching Rebel Wood, you were working in the cannabis industry. Can you tell us about your experience there and what brought you to growing?
MS: I have always been fascinated by plants and after leaving the cabinetmaking trade I decided to go back to school to feed my curiosity on the subject. I received a degree in horticulture from a local agricultural college and upon finishing got involved in the cannabis industry. Prior to that I had only contemplated growing cannabis and had no real experience with this wonderful plant. I was an early employee at one of Canada’s leading cannabis producers and helped establish a lot of the cultivation practices there alongside a handful of other passionate colleagues. I soon became the facility’s Integrated Pest Management lead, and spent most of my day monitoring plants for pests and disease while implementing a biological program to control and prevent any unwanted bugs.
I was an early employee at one of Canada’s leading cannabis producers and helped establish a lot of the cultivation practices there alongside a handful of other passionate colleagues.
HL: With legalization, the cannabis space is really taking off. What prompted you to leave such a promising opportunity?
MS: After two years, I realized that things had changed in a big way and I didn’t want to be a part of it any longer. The mom-and-pop vibe of working for a startup had worn off for me and things headed off a cliff into the deep dark corporate abyss. It was a relief to leave a competitive and at times toxic work environment to pursue what I had always wanted to do—be creative and independent.
HL: Any advice for people interested in working in the cannabis industry?
MS: Just get your foot in the door. There are a lot of entry-level positions in the industry, especially when it comes to cultivation. Whether it’s harvesting buds, transplanting clones, or pruning plants, you can learn this stuff pretty quick. Most of the people who started at the facility I worked at had never seen a cannabis plant in their lives. Cultivators tend to overcomplicate it and it can seem overwhelming to get started, but they call it weed for a reason! It’s a very forgiving plant and anyone can grow it. If you’re going to get started with a big company just know that you’ll likely be doing repetitive tasks everyday and may not get to experience the full lifecycle from propagation to packaging and shipping. If you don’t think you’d fair well on an assembly line I would look at applying to smaller grow operations.
HL: As a firsthand participant in the Canadian legalization experiment, do you think we’ve got it right? Should the U.S. and other countries follow Canada’s lead?
MS: Canada has definitely made the right choice to legalize but it’s just the start. There is a lot of room for improvement in terms of fair pricing, meeting the high demand, expanding the range of products available, and standards on product testing and information. It’s a new frontier and it’s going to take time for all the kinks to be worked out. There’s no logical reason why other countries won’t follow suit and legalize this stigmatized plant. It’s about time the world shakes off the dogmas of the past generations and focuses on moving forward… but I’m preaching to the choir.
I think people like the concept because it’s kind of an inside joke. It’s a subtle nod to cannabis culture and no one else need be the wiser.
HL: We love your THC and CBD molecule wall art. What inspires your designs?
MS: I have Disney to thank for that. I came across a post online that had some clickbait title like “Ten things Disney doesn’t want you to know” or something along those lines. One of the entries was a picture from Puppy Dog Pals, a children’s show I had never heard of, and in the background of this image was a shelf in the shape of a LSD molecule. I guess one of the illustrators was bored and thought he’d have a laugh. I found that hilarious but also kind of cool. I wanted to see if you could actually buy something like that, but after scouring the Internet I found nothing. I sat on the idea for a while and when I finally got around to drawing up the design I decided to figure out how to build the THC molecule instead because of my background and I thought it would resonate with more people. Long story short, I’ve had a lot of positive feedback since I first posted the item on my Etsy shop and now I have gone on to created the CBD, LSD, and Psilocybin molecules. I think people like the concept because it’s kind of an inside joke. It’s a subtle nod to cannabis culture and no one else need be the wiser.
HL: How long does it take to construct one of the molecules?
MS: From milling down boards of walnut to shipping, it’s at least six hours of work. I’m working on making my process more efficient but there are no shortcuts to this without compromising the end result. I spend as much time as I need to make sure it’s something I am proud of putting my name on.
HL: Rebel Wood is based in Calgary. Do you feel a connection to the neighbouring forests of the Rockies?
MS: I’ve always had a strong connection to the diverse landscape out my backdoor. One-hour drive west and you’re in some of the world’s best hiking trails and camping spots and it’s a great escape from the dust and chaos of the shop.
HL: As a horticulturalist, do you have a greater respect for the living material you work with? Can you tell us about the wood you use in your craft?
MS: Canada has an abundant forestry industry and some great species to choose from when woodworking. I primarily use walnut because it’s easy to work with and produces a beautiful end result. I was as an arborist for a couple of years and have a lot of respect for the trees that give themselves to my craft. I understand that there is an environmental footprint with my work and I plan to align my practices with that in mind as I grow my business. Unfortunately, there is only so much you can do with pallet wood while making high-end products.
HL: There’s a cannabis theme to many of your pieces. Does cannabis play a role in your creativity?
MS: I’ve always had an actively creative mind and come up with ideas regularly. I’ll usually have some cannabis after a long day to unwind and relax. Caffeine plays a bigger role in my work than anything else. I also can’t recommend operating a table saw after smoking a joint. Some hand-pressed espresso is my drug of choice while in the shop.
I’ve always had an actively creative mind and come up with ideas regularly. I’ll usually have some cannabis after a long day to unwind and relax.
HL: There is also a strong pop culture theme in your work, including Star Wars and comic books. Who would you dress up like for Halloween?
MS: I have found that having a full beard limits my costume choices. When I have dressed up in the past I’ve been a Viking, escaped convict, and a hobo… any suggestions would be welcome.
HL: We hear you also play guitar. How does this fit into your creative expression? Who inspires you?
MS: I’ve been playing guitar for most of my life. I got into metal and classic rock when I was young and it lead me to pick up the guitar and along with it a wardrobe of ill-advised band shirts and black jeans. I found a lot of confidence in being able to play as a kid and I guess that’s where I first began to have an appreciation for wood. I could spend hours a week picking up every axe on display at my local music stores and listening to the difference in tone each guitar made. I soon learned that the expensive guitars were hung at the top of the wall and sounded much better. They incorporated different exotic woods in the body and neck and it gave me a real appreciation for the craftsmanship. I don’t play as much as I used to but I find the same passion in working with my hands while in the shop. I’m usually listening to music of all genres or a Joe Rogan podcast to keep my brain active while working. I draw a lot of inspiration from the obvious famous entrepreneurs out there and people from all walks of life who have overcome some difficulty. I also gain inspiration from friends who are in a similar boat, carving a path in their own craft. It’s easy to get in your head when pursuing anything of worth so I try to flood my mind with as much wisdom from these people to help drown out the monkey mind that always seeks my attention.
Heads Lifestyle featured Rebel Wood's THC Molecule Art Piece in its Highly Curated 2018 Holiday Gift Guide
All photos of Mason and his work: Danny James Hagan
Check out Rebel Wood at: RebelWoodCo
And follow Mason on Instagram at: @rebelwoodcompany