When people watch me work, I mess up more. I work too fast. I skip important operations. I can’t concentrate.
All of which should make you wonder why I ever aspired to be a C-list woodworking celebrity.
When we bought our shop on Willard Street in 2015, I fell in love with the building’s enormous windows, which flood the front room with natural light. But what I didn’t fully realize when I signed the deed was that the windows work both ways.
As soon as I set up shop in the front room, passers-by paused to watch me work. On weekends, entire families would line up at the front windows, pointing and talking about what I was doing at that moment (which was mostly trying not to poop my pants – think Kegels, Chris).
In the morning, the sex workers on the first shift would peer into the window. They would stay to watch if I was working at the lathe. (Sex workers love turning – don’t let anyone tell you any different.) In the afternoon, kids from the elementary school down the block would stop at the window on their way home from school, probably to see if I had stabbed myself.
And at night, couples would swing by after dinner or drinks to see the mangy monkey (me) sweep up the mess.
The attention was unnerving for the first couple years. I thought about installing shutters I could close while I work to keep people’s eyes off me*.
Our bench room.
Then one day, I just got over it.
In fact, maybe my daily performances are a good thing for the craft. I’m not alone. If you start at Pike Street and walk down 9th Street, you’ll see upholsterers at work at 9th and Greer streets – Turner Upholstery. A sign and laser shop across the street – Grainwell – is incredibly busy churning out custom work and retail items. Next door to them is CVG Made, where Steve does a little bit of everything, from slabs to joinery to furniture and built-ins. Then there’s us – the hand-tool monkey show at 9th and Willard streets. And then a few doors down is Main Strasse Upholstery – another upholstery shop.
All this craft work is within one short block.
Maybe one of those kids walking home from Carlisle Elementary will pass through this corridor and see something that sticks in their head. A beautiful wing-back chair coming together at Turner’s. The wild plywood scraps that pile up outside the laser shop. Steve’s forklift. My weird chairs.
We are all a reminder that people still make stuff for a living. We are here every day, and we aren’t going anywhere. (Unless you want to see some turning out back – just kidding.)
— Christopher Schwarz
*We do have sun shades that we use to keep the early morning sun off the students and benches. But those don’t offer privacy.