I am never sure how my friends feel about my working wood. None of what I do is very conventional for a woodworker these days. I write articles for magazines and I just finished a book. The films I just made might seem, well, somewhat glamorous you might say. So how do I feel about my work.
Cultural shifts have a way of redefining what we do. Or should I say did. When I was a boy I worked in the workshop with other young people who were a notch above me and then half a dozen men who were very much above me. It wasn’t very hard to work out where I was on the totem pole of corporate life. Back then there were men who just worked with wood. Joiners and cabinet makers, carpenters and so on. Women didn’t do woodworking and amateurs were seen as unnecessary nuisances asking equally unnecessary questions and achieving poor results.
Here I am nearly fifty years later on working most of the time creating new things to pass on to others. You see I don’t write to get my articles published or because I want my name in print. And standing before a video camera is not really my favourite job at all. In fact, though I love writing and filming, I love them for one reason: If I don’t do this, all of my knowledge and ability might well die with me. I write because passing it forward is critical. Looking at the young faces in my classes reminds me that I have an obligation. Just as I did in the USA when I began training those who apprenticed and learned from me there. and had determination and drive. Now I must strategise a more expansive program based on training those who have proven that my course really works. Most of those I train will be unlikely to change their occupation, though they could if they wanted to. No, for the main part they quite like their work and the regular income. I never knew the world of contracts and regular pay. It was always nip-and-tuck existence, but it’s been a happy passage and one I wouldn’t change.
You know, my work has become an investment if you will. I spend my remaining time as others might spend money from savings in the bank. I use it before I pass from this world and circulate the money to stimulate the economy. In my case the economy is people I get to know. Who knows what return I will get on my money? If I was a betting man, which I am not, I would put my money on the next generation. It has something of a certainty about it. It’s the New Genre Woodworker. Soon I will be launching a new social enterprise for young people who might want to learn woodworking with me. John, my first UK apprentice since I returned here to live, leaves me in two short months and I will sorely miss him, but I trained him so he could leave me. He’s developed some real skills and he will use them wisely.