Carrie Roy grew up on a cattle ranch in southeast North Dakota and received her BA from Harvard in Visual and Environmental Studies, focusing on sculpture and photography. A recent speaker at It’s About Time, Carrie forges art that bridges the capabilities of computers and the creative touch of humans.

By contrast, her humanities research explores turning complex works of human expression into numbers to enable new forms of analysis and comparison. Here we talk about imposing your will via woodcarving and the many forms intelligence takes.


We noticed that you enjoy woodworking! How would you describe your style?

I love working with wood because it is both the most beautiful material I work with and the most challenging. Carving wood is like having a negotiation with a party that’s already spoken their entire position. Scrape by scrape you uncover their willingness or unwillingness to submit to your proposal. Encountering a knot is like hearing a “no way” that was actually yelled years or decades ago and, with the passing of the seasons, slowly embeds in the material. When I encounter these obstacles, I suspect the wood laughs at me, slowly.

What’s the piece you’re most proud of?

I fell in love with a Sam Maloof-inspired rocking chair while I was pregnant with my daughter.  I couldn’t afford one, so I decided to build one and my father kindly offered to help. Some women experience “nesting” during pregnancy—I just had an overwhelming urge to build and make a mess. My father learned carpentry from his father, and his father from his grandfather. My mother is a teacher. My father is not: no instructions, advice, or special vocabulary, just silence and focus. I had to learn by watching and trying, which was challenging at times. By the time I felt more comfortable wielding power tools than my very pregnant body around the workshop, we had finished a beautiful walnut rocking chair that I will cherish forever. Through the process I learned a lot about how my father solves problems, builds jigs, and uses techniques for joinery and strategies for clamping. He even has philosophies on how much glue to use.  One day, I look forward to teaching my daughter, because she identifies me as the parent who “builds stuff” (which I love), and she certainly enjoys building too.

Are you working on any projects now?

Currently I am working on four exhibition pieces for the Folger Shakespeare Library and also doing text analysis for the Theodore Roosevelt Center.

Do you have a favorite TED talk?

I realize it is the most popular, but Sir Ken Robinson’s talk is my favorite. I couldn’t agree more about his position on the importance of creativity and diverse forms of intelligence.  While I’ve spent years in higher education, the most important knowledge and inspiring moments I have experienced, have come from listening to stories from my elders, working with my hands, and observing nature.

What do you believe It’s About Time for in your life?

I moved to Denver in 2014, and while I love the natural resources, I feel it’s about time to meet more human resources: people with diverse backgrounds and organizations interested in supporting interdisciplinary approaches to solving problems.