When your life’s work becomes a reflection in the lives of others – when you see others learning your craft from you and you can watch from a distance as they grow – there is something unique taking place that defies the status quo. Leaving North Wales two years ago seemed yet another big step to me. I loved the beauty of the mountains and the snow covered lands in wintertime, the seascapes swelling and crashing and watching the shoreline birds dash back and forth to feast and escape. Peeps do that! When I knew it was time to expand the vision I had no doubt that a move was a foot and that to do that I needed new ground and the unique support I’ve found here “in England’s Green and Pleasant Land”. Packing my life and moving goes beyond the physicality of a shipping container with all of my worldly acquisitions.
No, it’s more, much more, than that. It’s more about shared lives than 16 workbenches and tools for students and such. To me it’s been about investment, developments and passing on all the things I’ve come to understand more deeply and more perhaps fully orbed. Yes, it’s true, I do teach woodworking, but I also feel it’s my place to retrace my own steps to return to the roots that first touched my palate as a young boy starting out on my journey to become a craftsman and an artisan at that.
I returned to the UK in 2009, 8 years ago now. I didn’t really have a plan but I knew I was to return to Britain and establish myself once more as an artisan and then too as a teacher of my craft because I had grown to love passing on my knowledge and skill. Believe it or not YouTube was but four years old in 2009, as of course was Facebook too, come to think of it. Today at around 4pm we reached 250,000 subscribers to my YouTube channel and with you continuing to support our endeavour we will see that continue to steadily grow for one reason alone—YouTube has been one of the primary vehicles by and through which we have been able to perpetuate the training we do on an ever-expanding level.
People are comfortable with it and we live with a generation that’s more accustomed to social media than mine. It’s strange to be a baby boomer reaching forward to millennialists through a medium that, well, seems to still be a stranger to my generation. I think that it is also important to see that YouTube has enabled me to reach people who would otherwise be isolated from receiving what we feel is important in our outreach. Our investment you see is becoming a harvest if you will. We see clearly now how what we plant gets constantly ploughed back into the lives of others and to be honest it’s you that has made this the worthwhile work it’s become. You see I don’t really have to work for income. I’m past retirement age and have no plans to retire. No, I work because my work, my goal, is not yet fully achieved. I want to keep digging and planting seeds because I see the outcome in you. People I hear about have become markedly happier and more fulfilled by learning from us. They can do things with their hands that they only once ever dreamed of—I mean lawyers and plumbers, engineers, carpenters and accountants, social workers and many more. Also, because you all share so freely what you are learning with others with such a willing spirit it’s meant that when someone is floundering to find out something in Papua New Guinea and Finland, the Ork
neys of Scotland and then in Portugal too, someone in Puerto Rico jumps right in and steers them to a safe place with the right information and suggestions. Who can deny that the world of woodworking has a generous and kindly camaraderie; a spirit of generosity and nurturing that somehow always pushes the boundaries?
This week we packed almost all of our belongings into an unending lineup of plastic boxes and stacked them onto pallets for their final destination, which is to be Abingdon here in Oxfordshire. It’s only 5 miles from point to point and the same Thames river that flows by Long Wittenham where we are currently flows to connect us to our new workshop and studio home. Over the next few weeks we will be setting up and settling in. It seems such a long time ago since I built those first workbenches on the Isle of Anglesey in Wales where the snow started falling and covered my machines as I passed the wood through. I was preparing the first 12 benches for my then new school New Legacy School of Woodworking. It was heavy snow on one of those winter’s days and by the time the bench tops had passed through the planer, an inch of snow had piled up at the other end. It seemed that way anyway.
My tiny stone workshop was too small for the tablesaw and the planer and jointer you see, so I set them up in the yard outside and worked outdoors with plastic bags over the motors and the electric cords to keep the wet out for two weeks. I loved it! I worked well into the dark to meet my deadline of opening the school, such as it was. That was a stepping stone you see. I enjoyed five years living in North Wales. During that time I continued to teach seasonally back in the USA too. I still consider the USA to be very much my home too!
So here I am, sharing my life with Joseph and those who have joined us on the journey, Phil, Ellie, Mark, Carla, Hannah and now Izzy too. They’re a special crew, I can tell you, and I am very blessed to have the support and abilities that they bring to the vision. It’s both work and fun and they are fun to be with.
But then there is you too with a capital ‘Y’. We have all loved having you on the journey with us. Where would we be without you, our friends around the world? In the coming weeks you will indeed see changes. I hope it doesn’t rock you too wildly but stay on board because there is a lot cooking for the future work.