By Michelle M. Sharp, Founder and Content Creator of Meet the Minnesota Makers

“I love that moment when I can finally start to see my ideas come alive. My drawings and designs become physical products that people love.”—Beth Sahli, Umbrella Custom Woodworking

In her Saint Paul garage workshop, Beth learned woodworking as an act of self-care. Beth realized that she had always wanted to learn how to shape wood as she worked through the grief of losing her aunt to suicide. 

Through candid social media stories of life behind the scenes, Beth shares the highs and lows of running a small business, parenting, and dealing with hardware store employees who assume that she’s shopping for her husband. The work that it takes to turn raw wood into a custom handwriting piece or a Montessori kitchen tool all serves as a metaphor for life’s journey at Umbrella Custom Woodworking. 

Beth’s grandfather, Jack McCollough, was a carpenter. Her grandmother kept all of his tools after he passed away from leukemia. When Beth discovered woodworking as a safe and fulfilling space, her grandmother invited her to select tools and templates from his workshop. “When my kids were very young, they could not pronounce the name McCollough, so they have referred to him as Grandpa Umbrella their whole lives.” When it came time to name her woodworking business, Umbrella Custom Woodworking felt right—a way to honor his legacy of inspiration. 

Beth recently used a template for butterflies from her grandfather’s collection for commemorative art projects for Ziggy’s Art Bus. Ziggy’s is a local non-profit that provides art experiences for children with life-threatening conditions at their own homes or wherever the kids receive medical support. “Using my business to give back is important to me. It’s part of the joy of running this business. I was always involved in community organization partnerships when I worked in schools. I have found a new way to give back through my woodworking.”

Beth makes a beautiful line of kitchen accessories including bread knives, cutting boards, and Montessori kitchen tools that are just the right size for small hands. Small pieces of wood become whimsical earrings or affirmation magnets. She also makes wooden toys such as animal play sets or memory games. 

Beth finds great joy in making custom commemorative pieces. “It is a privilege to be a part of creating meaningful pieces that help people to heal,” explained Beth. “There is so much meaning, such power in memorial pieces. I am able to use the skill that I learned to get myself out of grief to help others through the same process.” 

These powerful commemorative pieces capture a handwriting sample or a drawing made by a loved one. Beth’s skills in her wood shop transform the stroke of a pen into a lasting memory. “I would do this forever just to be involved in people’s stories,” smiled Beth. “I’ve had the privilege to be a part of so many beautiful stories by creating these pieces. It’s something that I especially love.”

Finding a community of makers in the Twin Cities has been a great treasure of her maker journey. “The Twin Cities maker community is full of the most supportive and kind individuals I’ve ever met. They willingly shared tips and tricks when I was a newbie and have embraced me with kindness and love,” said Beth. “I love that I get to pass on that same acceptance to newer makers now that I’m two years down the road.”

The woodworking space itself is not always so welcome to female creators. Beth shares the process and tools that she uses as a way to encourage other women or non-binary individuals to participate in this creative space. Her signature “Teach Me Tuesday” feature gives her the chance to literally discuss the tools of the trade. The feedback from some of her online students has been really motivating whether it’s because they’re trying out new techniques themselves or because they better understand the process behind her wooden creations. 

Taking the time to teach others also pushes her to keep learning. “My greatest surprise is that I never feel like an expert. I really thought I would eventually reach a point where I considered myself seasoned or experienced, but the truth is that I’m just always learning something new,” Beth explained. “There is always a new tool, new materials, a new technique, or a new art form to add to my lineup. It keeps things interesting for me and keeps me engaged in my craft in a way I’ve never experienced with other hobbies.”   

What started as a healing hobby is now a family business. Her husband and kids test new kitchen tools, pack boxes for shipping, and help keep the shop clean. Her business now contributes at least five percent of each month’s proceeds to the local community. “I’m so grateful for the support of the Twin Cities community as I’ve navigated the first few years of my business and I look forward to new ways to bring my products to clients and customers in the coming year.”

Stay tuned for new products as Beth works towards adding a laser to her workshop equipment. 

Beth will be one of the three Minnesota Makers participating in the June 22 Taste Maker class at the Farm at the Arb Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Class participants will see a variety of Beth’s products and learn what it takes to go from board to beautiful. 

Visit to see past custom orders and current store inventory. 

Follow @Umbrellacustomwoodworking on Facebook and Instagram for Teach Me Tuesdays and Fridays shimmies. 

Follow @meettheminnesotamakers to discover the creatives that inspire Minnesota.  

Visit or follow @meettheminnesotamakers on Facebook and Instagram to discover the food innovators who make Minnesota a tasty place to be! Meet the Minnesota Makers is a news site that connects you to the local food, farms, artists and artisans that make Minnesota thrive.




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