In my early days of trying to correct what went wrong, I tried to engage with so-called professional woodworking entities like woodworking magazines, woodworking outlets like Woodcraft and Rockler in the USA and my own woodworking schools Stateside and here in the UK. I soon realised that such entities had their own agenda of making money, keeping up with their customers, selling and running businesses. I understand that. But all the time I saw also that there was really very little if any interest in woodworking for young people. Woodworking was indeed very much an adult and pretty much a male-only craft. No one was precluding girls and women, just doing nothing to make it more inclusive for all. That was because it became a machine-only environment in most places and that includes garage workshops. That is how it was/is for the most if not almost all. Schools too saw no future in it because it no longer led to employment in industry (as that is what most schools are for, preparing kids for factorial output). They were closing their wood shops to replace them with computer labs and certainly you could not blame the schools because schools had devolved to make them the worst place to learn woodworking anyway. Realising that professionals couldn’t and mostly wouldn’t help, and perhaps nor should they, I had to rethink the problem. Were the schools to take the blame? Well, that’s not really what academic schools are for and nor were they particularly good at it anyway. If a school did offer a good woodworking curriculum then it was because of an individual teacher and not a school’s curriculum. But we are not really talking about just the US are we. There is the other 95% of the rest of the world to consider in the equation and indeed we are reaching around the whole world with our living message. You see I see this as a global issue as well as a local one.
Young people are being less and less exposed to working with their hands through craft and the failure to see what’s happening is that with each generation people, parents especially, are becoming less and less skilled with their hands. How can they possibly help their children see the significance of craft and hand work when they haver mainly become isolated and detached from it? Very few people today know anyone that actually makes anything to sell. You might see the occasional clog maker at a craft fair, a pole lathe turner, some things like that, but most are not making a living so much as acting out a historic role. Even though I do like living history museums and such, they are not the best place to take children for craft education. It’s a history museum. Visiting such places confirms to them that craft and artisanry is just a thing of the past not the present and future. Parental lack of attention to the problem seems so pandemic I believe it may be impossible to make change. I discussed this with a friend of mine who at the time was head of design at Stanford University in the USA. He said, “You know what, Paul? The really scary thing is it is impossible to take back what we have lost. It’s irreversible.” But we should not give up. He was taking about the export of industry and skill to other continents while we cleaned up our own environments from the residual effects of the fog and smog left from our Industrial Revolutions.
Well, anyway. You know what, my friends? My craft is well worth fighting for and I have fought for its revival now for over three decades to try to reverse the trend of machine-only methods of woodworking, which so precludes children and teenagers from the workshop. Woodworking is not a male-only adult craft. This blog, my teaching and training others, the work we do on woodworkingmasterclasses and on YouTube is adding more and more to a retrieval system everyone and anyone can access daily. Every ounce of our income to date has gone back into the work we do. Your continued donations are funding the future and especially am I grateful to woodworkingmasterclasses for the members there who strive with us to keep turning the tide. I may be 69 but I am as committed as I ever was to make my craft work for as many people who want it round the world.
You know what my greatest reward has been? You!