I don’t know if my week this week interests anyone else, whether it measures up to a week you might understand or even want to hear about, but I write thinking perhaps it might. These are some of my digital images; a few recorded moments in nine days when we progressed an intent to change. The images were taken from the 1,000 or so I took this week. It’s the quiet pockets of life people live in when they work that I like the most.
Different things impressed me about these men this week. They all have their own distinct characters, characteristic mannerisms, ways of hammering, chopping, pressing the chisel into the wood and even the unique way they each ask their questions throughout the days. I was tired tonight when I wrapped up the closing two hours, but everyone seemed happy to be saying goodbye. I guess they had mixed feelings goodbyes bring when combined with looking forward to being with family again.
It’s all too easy to isolate 12 men’s lives to a mere woodworking course. But of course you could do a few days on woodworking course anywhere. Why would some of them travel so far from their roots to be here in North Wales? I mean, why pay for travel and stay in a strange place rather be in your own bed and be with family? Every minute, I mean right from the saying hi’s at 9am day one, was like slipping quietly into a lake and swimming in spheres of total creativity. My part in this was to listen, to listen and watch. Listen to the saws cutting, planes striking the surfaces. Things like that. Every few minutes a moment comes and that special opportunity to invest in restructuring common methods of thought. The bench is an anchor for these men. I hear their questions and give the best answer I can from my lifelong woodworking. For me I must realign my way of life as a maker to teach and train. I invest what I’ve learned and built in the safest possible place I can think of. In a sense it’s more a condition than anything else. When someone wants to become a master of something they prepare a place to receive and store the information. It’s a safe place I’ve found. A protected place. I see a man on his knees tightening clamps and remind myself that skill begins to build with a single chisel cut, a saw stroke and the placing of a plane on a board of wood. So I look at this week’s memories and see different things that I learned and think back to 1989 when I started seriously teaching people how to work with wood. I said to myself back then that something had to change. Every woodworker I met at that time, without a single exception, was a machine-only guy to a man. It was the result of another man’s influence and a series of TV shows in the USA. So very powerful was this show that woodworkers throughout the US started dressing, talking and acting the same way. Hand tools were left aside, displaced and the new “power tools” started a fashion ever changing with each new battery type, size and casing. The show didn’t birth pictures like these bit it birthed the new era of woodworking whereby woodworkers became machinists. The donned hardhats and eye protection, face shields, dust masks and even respirators with battery packs strapped to their backs or hips. it was funny to watch how much they as the hung their ear protectors around their necks when they started work and wore them for many hours each day.They loved what freedoms the machine gave them. That is for a little while anyway. But then something started shifting. Mainly there was the acknowledgement that everything looked like it came out of Home Depot. Kitchen cabinets and garden sheds all looked, well, they all looked the same. You know, like a two by four. Slowly, very slowly, but gradually, woodworkers began looking for something that looked more skilfully made. I’m glad this happened because often you don’t always see what you had until you come close to losing it. It’s then that you really value what you’ve got. This week was no more than passing on the skills I’ve enjoyed throughout my life and watching men smile dare I say like children. I mean real skills became theirs to walk away with, knowledge too, and such like that. So with one brick at a time we rebuild the walls of what’s important.