A TikTok sensation, John Furniss, famously known as “The Blind Woodsman” is an inspiration to his 1.8 million followers. Many people have fallen in love with the designs he posts and his candid talk about his supportive wife, Anni, as well as his struggles with mental health.
According to the social media star, he took his first woodworking class almost 25 years ago at a vocational rehabilitation program his family enrolled him in after he “lost his way.” After meeting Anni, he discovered that his passion could become a business.
However, the TikTok star didn’t always have it good. Being raised in Colorado and then Wyoming, where his family relocated when he was 13 was a big challenge for Furniss. He believed he was a misfit and that relocation fed into his fears. This created a continuous downward spiral which eventually led to a suicide attempt where he shot himself in the head. Though he survived miraculously, it led to his blindness.
Facing his new sightless reality was traumatizing. As an adult, he moved from one boarding house to the next and developed a methamphetamine addiction that led him to drug dealing. In the early 2000s, he hit rock bottom with a near-fatal sinus infection and a felony conviction for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, which was eventually pardoned in 2019.
After joining a vocational program, Furniss was lucky to work in a woodshop with a blind teacher. The experience changed his life and gave him a new sense of direction. He calls it “a miracle,” and declares he found purpose doing woodwork. He enrolled at the School of Piano Technology for the Blind in Washington. It was there he learned to fix pianos and, more importantly, met the love of his life Anni, a volunteer whose paint he accidentally put his hand into.
As fate would have in 2016, Anni took a photo of a tray he had made for her mother and posted it on Facebook. The post was immediately flooded with comments with the repetitive question: “Where do you sell your work?” Furniss believes no one would know him without her.
The duo eventually launched a business (furnissstudios.com), with Anni painting his items, and they used TikTok to showcase their work. Thanks to Anni’s social media skills, Furniss has become a TikTok sensation, inspiring and baffling his followers with his “magical hands” (as one 9-year-old fan put it) and using his videos as a way to talk about mental health.
Furniss says his customers are a lifeline. “I want to thank them,” he says, “for helping me live my dreams.” He admitted the person who has helped him live his dream the most is his wife, Anni.
“I think he’s secretly an angel visiting Earth,” says Anni. Although Furniss doesn’t agree, he believes there’s a lesson in everything: “I’m supposed to be blind,” he says, “to do what I’m supposed to do here.”
Tamera Glenn writes on diverse subjects.