In 1970, Holly Tornheim worked on a building project in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in California. Along with a team of craftsmen, she built a house from local materials, using no electricity. Tornheim put the skills learned in this project to use in subsequent jobs. For example, while working on a sixteenth-century convent in Provence, she recycled an old beam, carving an elaborate design into it to create the center pole for a spiral staircase. Tornheim insists that her work should be functional, and her carved objects include window frames, chairs, tableware, and boats.