John’s rocking chair
Those who follow this bog know that John Winter is my apprentice. I have trained many young people like John through the years and the rewards though varied have been greatly beyond any financial gain. Fact is, I have never received a penny in renumeration from any product or pay resulting from such training. His course is 9 months. He’s under pressure to complete his work before December when he returns to his homeland in Patagonia, Argentina.
John is a highly gifted individual and at the same time my young friend. Presently his task is making his first ever chair, actually a rocking chair in the Craftsman style many know and love. It’s quite a challenge to configure the multifaceted structure and when you consider the complexity of joints, angles and shapes, the challenge becomes exponential.
Thinking spatially involves undeveloped or underdeveloped thought processes to negotiate the three-dimensional world of creative building. Because young people, children no longer have substantive exposure to crafts as they did in former generations of education, I find young adults (those under 45 years) have great difficulty working with their hands with any degree of confidence, dexterity and skill. Part of my strategy is to dismantle the sense of helpless hopelessness they feel in tackling what can be quite simple and basic tasks. Within a few hours their skill levels increase as the chemical that develops the right side of the brain stimulates the growth hormones that bring balance to redress these learning and developmental shortfalls. Confidence increases the sense of self worth; something that they never knew was missing until now. Picking up a chisel or saw to cut with with their newfound confidence means even more than the finished box or the shelf. And it’s this that makes my work worthwhile.
John must finish his rocking chair in time to present it at the European Woodworking Show in Essex next weekend. I hope that he can. He has much to do yet, but he is a willing apprentice artisan and that makes all the difference.
Chairmaking is one aspect of furniture making I find most woodworkers avoid, mostly because of the seeming complexity of issues surrounding making a good chair. I will be discussing this and other such things in my Master classes at the European Woodworking Show next weekend.