In 2007 I met John Winter and he came to my house over a number of days to build his workbench with his dad. His dad is a paediatrician and was working at the hospital in the town near where I live. John came into the castle workshop at 18 for a year to apprentice and learn woodworking and he’s now a man of 21. He’s a fine craftsman. His work is exemplary as is his passion for knowing woodworking. I sit often at my bench and watch him as he works and I see the birth of a skilled and knowledgeable woodworker. Beyond that he’s become a close friend to me and others he works with, a capable furniture maker and an excellent and knowledgeable teacher. His future is now ready to unfold in his own workshop in Patagonia and before the year ends he’ll start new things no one knows anything about yet.
I have enjoyed having John here and I am certain that is obvious, but what made him different to say apprentices I trained years back? When I first took an apprentice it was to help him become what he had no knowledge of but had always wanted to be. His dream was to become a furniture maker and that’s what he became. Stephen was not the easiest apprentice trainee. Probably because he was older and more set in the ways he wanted to do things. As soon as he learned anything from me he thought everything originated from him and as soon as he learned enough he left and started his own business. I was still glad that he was able to start on his own and that he at least worked with me long enough to learn furniture making and indeed he too became more than competent and I taught him all he needed to become the furniture maker he’d dreamed of becoming.
You see, on the one hand it’s been good from time to time to see someone grow away from you for the wrong reasons, but all the better to see someone come to maturity and grow into their place of ultimate responsibility with you and away from you. On the one hand there is often disharmony and then on the other perfect peace. John and Phil have both brought peace into my otherwise high self-demand life. When they come into the workshop I feel settled at them both being with me. I hope that they feel the same way I do.
As we worked on the class today there was for me a peace throughout the day. The students are from Israel and Brazil, from the USA came three more and then another from Belgium. The rest are from the UK. It’s been very peaceful and even though I apply substantial pressure I feel for the one thing I value the most and that is peace and understanding. I think we all feel the same way about learning a craft; that it’s high self-demand that makes it work. No one really ever stops until I call a launch break. Hot coffee is always welcome but no one stops to chat until a phase or step is completed. This maximising of intense training has borne good fruit in that boxes dovetailed all fit and fit well. For most of them these boxes are their very first. Who knows, perhaps they will become furniture makers too, in their own right of course.