When I purchased my shop building in Covington, Ky., I swore I wasn’t going to open a woodworking school. And, in all honesty, I still don’t want to run a school or return to teaching.
I will, however, allow my friends to use the space to teach classes.
So, in the coming weeks you can look for Megan Fitzpatrick and Brendan Gaffney to offer additional classes at our storefront. Brendan is especially keen on offering low-cost, one-day workshops for locals to introduce them to woodworking, sharpening and woodworking tools. Why? Almost every day people stop by the storefront asking if we will teach them how to build things. (Today, a plumber and a barber asked for classes.)
Megan has a full roster of classes that we have been planning for many months, including a Morris chair design that was made here in Cincinnati, Ohio.
In conjunction with these classes, we also plan to open the mechanical library up for the public to use. The library is still under heavy construction – Megan and I need to build a 12’-long run of shelves to house part of the collection.
So things are changing here – for the better. By the end of the year the Horse Garage will be a fully functional shop with a few good machines. We’ll have space for me to continue my research and build commissions. We’ll have space for Megan and Brendan to offer instruction. Plus rare old books to blow your mind.
One final note: All of our projects begin incredibly small in nature. Lost Art Press sold about 2,000 books its first year in 2007. (We’re up to about 40,000 a year now. That’s a pathetic growth curve for corporate America, but I have only two words for corporate America.) Crucible is still in its infancy, as are our plans for the storefront. I want things to grow organically and be bulletproof. No debt. No reaching for things beyond our grasp.
My father assigned his office assistant, Bambi, to be my teacher. One of our early lessons involved learning to copy maps, an essential life skill if there ever was one. She showed me how to copy an outline using a grid. “Just draw in some squiggles around the edges,” she instructed as I worked on a map of Florida’s east coast.
“But what about everyone who lives along those bays and beaches?” I asked, concerned that such a laissez-faire approach to cartography might result in the flooding of countless homes, drowning the pets who lived in them. (Never mind their human inhabitants, who were of less concern to me in those days.)
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” she said. “It’s just a map.”
It wasn’t long before we dispensed with this farce and I sought instruction from the young people who were living in assorted small structures they had erected around our tropical half-acre backyard. I learned to make whole wheat bread, tofu and carrot pizza, and home-churned ice milk, washed my clothes in a puddle, and took cold showers to fortify my character. I dispensed with my hair brush and allowed my dirty-blond tresses to spin themselves into a head of dreadlocks that unsophisticated acquaintances of my parents dismissed as filthy matted hair.
In a nod toward formal study, I read several entries in the World Book Encyclopedia each day and was so taken with the one for panpipes that I wrote to the editor and asked for plans that I might use to make a set. I signed my letter Norman Stanley Hippietoe, an androgynous persona I had invented to replace my birth name and gender. I was elated when a letter addressed to Mr. N. Hippietoe arrived in the mail, even though it carried the disappointing news that the publisher could offer no plans for constructing the instrument.–Excerpted from Making Things Work by Nancy R. Hiller
*Fancy Lass-speak for different curriculum. There’s nothing like learning to make tofu and carrot pizza and wash your clothes in a puddle to set a kid up for the discipline and structure offered by the Fancy Lads Academy.