When the show ends the reality hits. It’s a lot of work pulling everything together. But then two small girls 3 and 8 sat on the front row called Ira and Kitty kept jumping in with comments and questions and the reality of woodworking for a new generation reminded me of how important my work is. One thing I might not like about shows like this is being surrounded by reps from Milwaukee, Bosch, Axminster and many others. Here the kids walk amidst the great giants with demonstrators standing with a random orbit sander and no protection at declaring the safety and the freedom such equipment brings and they were a suit and tie on the scheme of it all. And then I peel of a shaving with name ‘Ira‘ on it and curl it round her arm as a wrist band of friendship hope that that single shaving will reverse the invasion of bright red and then yellow boxes stacked like a wall of obsession around its reps. A university Design and Technology teacher of D&T teachers lamented the losing of elements once seen as essential in the closing years of school. I signed his book as he thanked our team for the work we do going against the tide. In the face of those versed only in the art of selling I found myself comforted by the dozens that came each hour to thank us for fighting the cause of real woodworking and providing a way out as an alternative reality. Ever-immersed in a sea of people knowing the importance of our work is a far cry from 25 years ago when we first began. Back then we were quite alone, seen more as poor neanderthals, but that’s far from the case today. We were never too far away from people who loved us and cared about us and have supported us through the years. Surrounded as we were by gladiating giants hiding behind the facade of being experts people see the truth. That said, several people said they came looking for help but felt confused by the offerings. Anyway I did lots of demonstrating and those who knew nothing of our work discovered perfect dovetails stacking up on my bench, mouldings coming from 150 year old moulding planes and a dozen more examples of what they came to the show looking for.
Coming North wasn’t so much to be with salesmen selling machines, equipment, consumables and such or even hand tools, but to meet with friends from many different realms of life who love woodworking, are looking for something different and are above all looking for real woodworking. That’s who we are and that’s who are the ones searching. Anyway, we met with little input from anywhere else or anyone else.
In three days time I have two-day discovering woodworking workshop for 15 people. A full class plus three. I will be rested by then and the class will change the lives of 15 people. Reaching out without gimmickry or being sponsored will always be the art of any artisan. I have grown weary of such shows in many ways because we might be seen to validate them, but through the years I see the D&T lecturer buy a book from us for one a student he has who works from a small shed on garden allotment somewhere in Sheffield. I see children like Ira and Kitty, John and his dad, and then Julie with her two daughters telling me, “My mummy’s got one of these (#4 Stanley plane).” and I sigh inside and I say to myself, “We’ve won!”