Sheds are of course important whether you have a garden needing garden tool and equipment stowage or not. For the do-it-yourselfer, be that gardener, repair person or woodworker, it’s place to work, keep a bench and fix up bikes. For most it’s a place to store task-appropriate maintenance equipment. For me its essential because it frees up my slightly larger garage space for my furniture making and general woodworking like joinery and carpentry. Whether you hang bikes from the ceiling rafters or the wall, here in the UK at least, they seem more like wrestling with an octopus every time you move. Even though you love ’em to bits, they will always be in the way.
Getting the tin on and flashing the tin against the existing brickwork pf the back of my garage wall went well. The door too is hung and painted too but still needs a little trim and cill work yet. I’ll get to that soon.
In the morning I am keynote speaker for UK Men’s Sheds Association, an organisation promoting an ideology that promotes and supports people working more communally on a near-to-home casual basis. Sheds in gardens are of course the general venue, which takes me back to the times in my early days in the late 80s when woodworkers I knew in Texas met together for friendship at 8am on a chosen Saturday morning to show, tell and share what they hoped to do, were in the midst of doing or had just recently completed. Show and tell was a great moral booster and sharing successes was always inspiring. Donuts and coffee greeted those who came and as a guest speaker there I always enjoyed the opportunity to share my life as a woodworking furniture designer maker.
Hearing of Men’s Sheds when I lived there in the USA was always heartening for me because no such thing existed when I left the UK to migrate. The Aussie version came to me first some time in the beginning of the new Millenia. No surprise to hear it being established here when I returned to the UK. Times are changing and thankfully we are starting to be less exclusive than we once were. Exclusivity is and always has been the curse of the age. Exclusivity does more to undermine human relationships than almost anything I can think of. A shed, an open door and an open Saturday every so often can be just what you and your neighbour needs. Looking back on my experience teaching woodworking for three decades has been little more than a shed meeting albeit of likeminded people woodworking every week. In some ways, for no negative reason at all though, I have never been to a Shedder’s meeting before, yet I feel as though I have been ‘shedding’ for ever.
Shedders and shedding are terms used to identify members of the growing movement of Men’s Sheds Association. The term shedders intentionally lessens the need for over structuring what is a serious organisation with the antidote for multiple thousands of people who might otherwise face only long term loneliness, depression and isolation. Of course not all the members struggle with such dilemmas. Many are perfectly apt at being in a group or alone. Unlike more official teaching, training and support situations, where instructors and teachers make themselves available, the experts might more often just blend themselves humbly in with any audience present. They may not even self-identify at all. Effectively there are knowledgable people to help, steer and guide those who need a nudge of encouragement or training here and there; there are no experts per se yet there are of course very experienced people working behind ther scenes and up front in a host of different interests. Guaranteeing individual success takes a truly willing spirit to share their lives with their friends in the basic shed.
Shedding by shedders means much more for me. My teaching and training has meant that I have taught one-on-one woodworking through hands-on workshops to over 6,500 woodworkers. The courses ranged from one-day classes to month-long courses. But you could never help noticing that the longer courses, the ones where people had greater contact with one another, succeeded to bring down the barriers and walls of resistance. Inevitably this often led to people becoming long term friends and many retain the friendships for many, many years. But even more than that: shedding often means shedding off the past, shedding off preconceived ideas, shedding off barriers that stop us from simply making ourselves vulnerable, available and indeed responsible in the sense of simply responding to needs.
I understand the original goal of men and sheds was to tackle the isolation men feel when the finish working for a living. It worked. That vision has embraced people from every walk of life even though the underlying factor of helping men adjust their lives after work continues. Long may we all continue to help one another in our struggles side by side and shoulder to shoulder.