Leah Bosworth and Scott Mills are partners in the best possible ways. Not only do they share a life of love and light together, they are also supportive business partners who have transformed the southwest corner of 7th Street and Butler in the Sunnyslope area of Phoenix into one of the more interesting creative, restorative and thought-provoking spaces in town. Over the past two years, Ironwood Yoga Studio and Ironwood Mills have turned a former warehouse space into a bastion of creativity and healing arts by combining their collective energy to build something wonderful.
Bosworth, 49, and Mills, 50, met in 2006 when Mills moved to Phoenix to build a house in the Arcadia area. A native of Washington, Bosworth moved to Phoenix in 2005 after years in New York City studying with the National Shakespeare Company and working as a yoga instructor. Mills hails from Thousand Oaks, California, and lived in Lake Tahoe before settling in Phoenix. “I met Leah and never left,” Mills says.
Ironwood Mills specializes in the creation of large, stunning pieces of furniture made from huge pieces of wood. Mills’ work can be found in homes and restaurants around the state, as well as in the lobby of Ironwood Yoga Studio. In fact, Bosworth’s desk is a sight to behold and a fantastic example of what Mills can do with a remnant from a large, beautiful tree.
The open space of the yoga studio is nothing short of inviting, with spectacular views of the Phoenix mountain preserve. Large windows provide abundant natural light for stretching muscles and expanding consciousness for students working with Bosworth or one of her ten instructors. Bosworth and company offer a plethora of classes each month for every level of yoga practitioner, as well as a balanced slate of restorative classes.
Renowned artist Fausto Fernandez also shares warehouse space with Bosworth and Mills, who regularly hold art events in their space. The painter’s colorful work covers the walls of the workspace he and Mills share. It’s just off the lobby of the yoga studio and opens up into a beautiful open space in the back of the property.
With its high ceilings, spacious rooms and courtyard in the back, the expansive location is a perfect space for art exhibits. The courtyard also serves as a storage and curing area for Mills’ incredible collection of lumber. The corner lot, once home to Sunnyslope Vintage and Resale, will undoubtedly serve the community well as Ironwood Mills and Yoga Studio continue to grow.
We caught up with Bosworth and Mills to learn more about what they are up to in 2018.
Scott, how did you get into woodworking?
Scott: I’ve always been a tool junkie. I got my first tool kit when I was eight and proceeded to take apart the neighbor’s entire house next door after they had moved out. I spent my summers in Iowa with my grandpa, who managed a lumberyard. When I was 14, my parents told me to get a job, so I went to work for my friend’s dad doing cement contracting. I just kept going from there, building high-end spec homes in Mammoth Lakes, California, and have been building and remodeling homes ever since.
I love combing the desert for little treasures, and that’s how I discovered my love for ironwood. Leah decided she was going to start a business and open a yoga studio. The company I was working for at the time dissolved, and so it was sort of perfect timing for us. I was able to have creative freedom to build Ironwood Yoga Studios. I stumbled upon a big field of logs up on Highway 17, worked a deal with the owner and acquired a lot of beautiful trees that were headed for the dump.
From there, I started meeting arborists and rescuing trees from people’s backyards. I began accumulating all of these logs, and when I looked around to find a place to mill them, there weren’t that many options. So my former business partner (Osha Levgin) and I decided to buy our own sawmill and start milling on our own.
Through the yoga studio and meeting different people, we started making both residential and large-scale commercial furniture. We met Tucker Woodbury, who was opening Ladera just about a year later, and they needed some tables for their grand opening. From there, we created some community tables for the new Vig in North Scottsdale and Elote in Sedona and have just kept going from there.
What is it about building furniture that floats your boat, as they say?
Scott: The raw creativity, having no boundaries, repurposing, giving something another life. Everyone seems to love wood, the look of it, the touch, the smell. It’s fun to be the guy that can do something cool with it.
How did you come up with the name Ironwood for your woodworking business and yoga studio?
Leah: Scott originally pitched Ironwood to me for the yoga studio: one, because we both love that tree and two, because he was building out the space with wood and steel. I loved the name but thought it might be too strong for a yoga studio. But when I took a closer look at the ironwood tree, I discovered that it happens to be the most amazing tree in the desert. It actually serves as an entire ecosystem for many living things. It’s a sanctuary, providing protection from the heat and cold, nourishment, and it has medicinal qualities. It’s incredible. When Scott got ready to create his actual business, it was kind of a no-brainer.
Scott: It comes from passion for ironwood. I have two sawmills, and my last name happens to be Mills. It’s a strong name, and it kind of just works.
You specialize in working with really large pieces of wood, it seems. What is it about the size of the tree, for example, that appeals to you?
Scott: It’s pretty gratifying. These large pieces lend themselves well to furniture that people love: dining tables, bar tops and countertops. It’s about uncovering the hidden treasure in these beautiful trees. I’m a nature boy. I just love things that are epic, unique and interesting.
Why did you choose Sunnyslope as a base for your operations?
Leah: Everything just sort of lined up. The building owner’s daughter, Nathalie Windstein, was a student and friend of mine. Her dad, Gerard Windstein, is a visionary. He bought the building about four or five years ago to relocate his Organic Living business into.
When Nathalie suggested that I open a yoga studio there, it just seemed perfect. We looked at the space and instantly fell in love with the energy and bones of the building and saw so much potential. We love the combination of natural beauty, diversity and character of Sunnyslope. The location is brilliant, and it’s pretty close to our house, so that’s cool.
What’s next for Ironwood Mills and Yoga Studio?
Leah: We really just want to create a cool community and collaborate with different types of artists. We are interested in taking over even more of the warehouse space available to see how we can continue to combine our businesses and support other artists by making the space available for different events and shows.
What else should people know about Ironwood Mills?
Scott: Phoenix has a wonderful array of hardwood species. I’d like to raise awareness of this underutilized resource, to show people that there are other options for these extraordinary trees besides firewood or the dump. We can do large-scale projects and have a portable Lucas mill that can cut logs up to 60 inches in diameter. We have a very unique variety of wood slabs available on their own or for us to turn into one-of-a-kind furniture pieces. I have developed a sensitivity to scale and design over the last 30 years of working in the field.
Leah: I have done my best to build a studio that teaches the valuable and effective principles of yoga, and but also has a relatable and welcoming feel. I’ve worked hard to create a space that feels super comfortable, where you can really be yourself, but also with a strong emphasis on aesthetic and natural beauty. We put our heart and soul into every aspect of the studio and our work.