A month into the fine woodworking program at College of the Redwoods seems like a good starting place to reflect on some of the ideas and feelings that have been entering my mind. I’ve been buried at my bench since day one, awed and overwhelmed with everything we’ve been introduced to, meditating on my relationship with woodworking and what I hope to experience here.
I have always thought of the objects we surround ourselves with as being imbued with meaning. Their design, function and use reflect our innermost values and tell our stories. On one hand they betray us to posterity, evidence of our advancements, shortcomings and biases, as well as how and where we place our priorities. The objects we are surrounded with reveal how we understand ourselves and the world we live in. After all, we are what we make. In another way, our most treasured things can connect us with lost time and lost loved ones, keep memories alive and spur our imagination. They are symbols for what can be too subtle or difficult to express with words. My own curiosity with woodworking began with old tools that belonged to my father and grandfather. They were handles graced by hands I wanted to understand, in hopes of better understanding myself. By coming to California, though, I’m trying to cultivate my own relationship with wood.
The program strikes a nice balance between individual and group work. We’ve started off with exercises to heighten our sensitivity, refine our skills and gain confidence with our abilities, our tools and machines.
We’ve learned to sharpen our tools, dimension and square lumber, make a variety wooden hand planes, practice joinery and dovetails, and have started our first panelled and dowelled cabinet. Yet, from this shared starting place come unique creations that fulfill our respective aesthetic biases and accommodate our materials as well as the ‘golden’ mistakes we invariably make.
I heard a graduate emphasize that this program is truly what you make of it – that you get out what you are able to put in. And I’ve started to see first hand the commitment and diverse directions we’re each headed in. It starts with the staff, the second year students and trickles down to the novices, like myself.