When I finish teaching a class at a woodworking school, there is always a debriefing. The owner asks me how the class went. Were there rough spots? Things that could be improved the next time? It’s standard “let’s be responsible adults” chatting.
That is never the case with Marc Adams, who runs the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in central Indiana. I started teaching there 15 years ago, and every debriefing conversation has been shockingly intimate, personal and cathartic.
Marc and I are about as different as two people can be in the way we see the world and approach woodworking. Yet we get along really well. We are both hard-driving, Type-A family men who juggle our love for our work with our love for our wives, kids, compatriots and craft.
So on Friday, Marc called me into his office after I finished teaching 17 (!) students to make an American Welsh Stick Chair and we went through the regular motions. Marc dropped my paycheck on the floor to ensure it didn’t bounce. He asked how my assistants (Doug, Eric and Will) did. Then he started into deeper stuff.
“So you’re a writer, furnituremaker, publisher, teacher,” Marc said. “So what…”
I braced myself to offer the answer I always give to the question, “So what are you, really? A writer? Furnituremaker? Publisher?”
I even opened my mouth to start forming the words. But the question I was expecting didn’t come.
“So what,” Marc asked, “makes you happy?”
It was like someone had punched me in the gut. I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that question. I sucked in a big breath and thought about it for a half-second.
“I like to build furniture based on my research and write about it,” I replied.
“Is that what you do?” Marc asked.
“Sometimes,” I said. I then started explaining where my income came from, but that wasn’t the answer that Marc was seeking. So I ended my vomiting of my 1040 with, “Sometimes, I get to do that.”
Marc nodded. And then he moved onto other stuff.
On the drive home, I put on the saddest album I own, Magnolia Electric Co.’s “What Comes After the Blues.” Sad music and the open road always opens my mind.
— Christopher Schwarz