Taking a Class


June 30, 2008

We have just finished up two weeks of Joinery Concentration classes. We being 12 students and me, my two assistants, Virginia, and the beagle Jimmy. The only casualty I think was my ham sandwich the last day of class. Jimmy got that. My fault, it was my fault of course. I didn’t take him for that lunch time walk and then left the temptation too close to him. Still and all, Jim leaving me just the cucumber and one half chewed piece of bread seemed a bit cold.

Class at the Studio is an amazing slice of life. You come there, master of your own world, fluent in its nuance, trained by years of practice, and then you decide to try something completely different and take a class. Or maybe not you’re not quite new but you’re untrained. It doesn’t matter how much time you have spent in your own shop. It is odd being in someone else’s shop surrounded by new people, trying at the same time to deepen your knowledge of this woodworking stuff.

It’s hard to do. This I understand. You work side by side with folks you have never met. Working on projects or techniques, trying to remember that class like this is not a sprint but a marathon. And that keeping up with anyone else is always a losing battle. You have to remain true to your own beacon, true to your own pace. Trying to remember the important issues for you and what you really want to leave with. Of course, Mom or your sweetie at home will want to see the lovely trivet or Philadelphia Highboy you made in one week of class. But it’s the information, the practice, the techniques, and the shared experience that really make it worthwhile.

I took a class once in pewter work. At that point in time, the extent of my metal working knowledge consisted of knowing how to put a hacksaw blade on a saw. ‘Bout it. I had never worked bronze or copper and knew even less about pewter. Well we got into class about 14 of us and the teacher had us talk about our experiences and this one guy pulls out this pewter tea set he had done and everyone’s jaw just dropped and here he was in class with us and then too soon it was my turn to talk.

You know those naked on the stage dreams you get sometimes. Where you forget your lines, or forget your pants, or forget where to stand or something awful like that and you feel tiny and small? Well this would have felt good compared to how I felt when it was my turn to talk about my experience as a pewter smith. All I could say was, “ I like playing with the big kids. I have no experience at all with pewter.” That was it. I like learning new stuff. And I had fun melting giant holes in that incredibly soft tin. I also liked watching someone else teach because it’s always so instructive to see someone else leading and how they do it.

I told my students the story about one of my Mastery students who ran a flooring business. He was running at the time a big crew of about 20 guys or so. And invariably he would get someone who came in and talked a good game but didn’t know squat. Then this guy would work for a year or so and pretty soon he knew everything. Or he would talk like he knew everything. And then, if he stuck around, if he stayed with it for another five or ten years, he would finally come to the realization that he didn’t really know that much. That there was still a bunch to be learned. Always something to be learned. That’s the fun part.

Anyways, we had a good week doing joinery. We covered a lot of ground and left a lot more that needed covering. But that’s how it is. It’s a long long race. All I can say is thanks to my students, it was fun again.

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Published in: on June 30, 2008 at 5:55 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. As one of the 12 mentioned, it was indeed a marathon but a wonderful experience! I think the best part of the course was that we were (within limits!) allowed to move in different directions. My highboy never got finished but I learned so much I’m still digesting much of it.
    Measure twice….measure twice…measure twice….
    Thanks Gary et al. I already miss the shop (and Jimmy).


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