Greetings. It has been some time since I have written with news of the Studio. These past few months have been an interesting glimpse into how things have changed for us in society and evolved for us in our day to day existence on our spinning planet. Yikes is my response.
Change has never been easy for me, no matter how I remind myself of it every season. I notice a plant sprout up in my yard or I watch a puppy grow into its big paws, or a young neighbor starts to become moody and shy and hard to reach. It is a difficult thing for the young, if you remember, to change from someone whose purpose in life was joy to someone whose purpose in life was now to live.
Well not difficult for puppies, it is always joyful for them.
Nobody likes the idea of constant change either. The anarchists can go fuck themselves. Constant change is chaos. Chaos is rough on our fragile psyche. [See Mihalyi Csikszentmihayli’s book: Flow]. [See Freud: Civilization and Its Discontents]. [See 2020].
We like constancy and some of us like a little bit of change. It helps to keep things fresh. In Flow, the author relates how a Pacific Northwest Coast tribe moved every 30 years to keep everything fresh, force people to make new homes, design new trails and food sources in a new location. At the same time they left the land behind to regenerate. What an idea! To let the land regenerate instead of using it all up.
So some of us like the changing of the seasons, some of us do. Well enough about change. I will simply pull off the band-aid, a somewhat painful image I’m sorry to say used recently on me, and tell you that the Studio is closing its doors in Portland.
After 24 years of offering classes here, it is time for me to try a new angle on things, a different tack, a new teaching model. Time to work smarter instead of harder still. It has been a wonderful run with my students even though the characters keep changing, cycling in and out of here, I have great memories of our time together at the bench. To share what I know and have learned has always been the gift for me. To see folks grow and go off on their own is a joy however sad. It does remind me of time’s passage.
But to get inside those Studio doors, shut out the world and its increasing insanity, and to work at the bench has been a great treat, and a blessing for me that I got to work and teach in a woodshop every day. Can’t beat that. Yeah, the pay wasn’t great but the time there sure was.
Our run of DESIGN: Open Houses was very special to me. My thanks to those of you who joined those mini-Chatauquas and to those who shared their ideas and opinions. The discussion of Big Ticket concepts that we bandied to and fro was always so much fun for me. And sharing this with the community at large was a blast. Woodworkers are not all block heads.
These chats also offered a necessary balance to the grind of hours at the bench on a project. This mixture of ideas and efforts produces more ideas and makes effort easier too. It is this mixture of physicality and thought that has always been the appeal of this work for me. It is never one or the other. I have come to understand how our body and mind work together, not separately, when we are at our best. When we are at our worst after 8 hours of only one type of this work or the other, it wears on us. But mix the two together and the work feels better and the ideas fresher. It is my considered belief that we are better for working hard with our bodies and this helps us to work hard with our heads. And the vice and the versa.
Teaching high school students in our WIN program was a high point of satisfaction, frustration, and fun. This venture was wrapped up in my vision to create a school here in the Pacific Northwest that was a cultural phenomenon. It didn’t come to the acme of fruition that I had desired. I had envisioned a Studio with a Mastery Program, an ongoing high school program, working with veterans in construction education building tiny Houses, a sawmill and forestry program as well as ongoing classes. This was all so people could see the value of education from source to different end points. Having a vision isn’t enough. I needed support and someone more adept than I at raising money. So the non-profit will close.
Being able to transform my business of design and building one of a kind pieces of furniture into teaching and talking has been a gift. It remains a gift. I am lucky to have chosen a path that has allowed this kind of freedom. It is seldom found in other walks of life. But then I’m a hard head and a peripatetic and full of energy. So what else could I have done?
Now as I blah blah on, you’re sitting back either bored or asking, well what the hell are you gonna do?
Well I’m leaving the building that the Studio resided in these past 15 years and moving somewhere. How’s that?
In truth, I have another small shop where I will move some of my tools and my enormous pile of wood. As for teaching, that will all go on online. We will continue to develop Online classes. Our first Build Along Session building a table was great fun. We will do more of those. I’m just not sure where the next one will take place from. But instruction will continue to be done online especially in the Online Mastery Program. The Oompa, as we call it around the Studio, has been successful beyond belief. I love the small orange faced students. No, I’m kidding. Many faces, none orange, but great fun to work with. And this is where I want to put my focus: on students excited about learning, exchanging ideas, and working on design who also know of the hard work ahead. I will do this now online as my reach is greater.
I also need to get back to my own work that has been put off for far too long. It is a different kind of satisfaction that has been missing in my life for too long. No more fixing a thousand Studio problems.
I hate change. It is usually difficult for me, emotional when it’s wrenching like this. Hell’s bells, me and the Beagle took 2 ½ years of wandering around Portland before we found this spot. I moved my old shop on 28th in one month, the rainiest January ever, to this place. It was nuts. But I will love some things about this time that I will never ever be able to replace. Having my sweetie walk through the door on me unannounced or students and visitors drop by just to say hi. That won’t happen any longer. Thank you to those of you who have kept me from my isolation. You helped me to change. I appreciate that.
The future is steadfast. It is always unknown. To those who say, We will never see this again, I say baloney. We will see the same baloney again, just in different ways, different shapes. But humans remain, as always, only too human. We repeat our mistakes. We revel or boast of our vision for the future even when evidence to the contrary shows us we will be wrong. We will also move on and go listen to the birds sing and watch the sun rise. That’s for me. I gotta say too that I’ll be around for awhile longer just in a different place. More on that to come. I’ve blathered on long enough. Thanks for reading.
Thanks as well for supporting the Studio and its mission to bring education to so many using our hands, our head, and our hearts. There will be a sale of some wood and tools and jigs announced on these pages soon. A sale will run sometime in August. I’ll be in touch on that.
Adieu mes amis. Thank you. Yours truly, Gary
Online Mastery Program
Please take a moment to listen the current podcast of It’s Wood with Daniel Carter. In it Gary and Daniel discuss the new Online Mastery Program starting this January. Here’s the link to It’s Wood.
And don’t forget to check out the Modern Woodworkers Association podcast. Another discussion with Gary and the fellas about a variety of topics.
A few comments about our Online Lectures and Workshops.
“I just wanted to drop a quick note to say thank you for the class this week. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot! Hoping to sign up for another one soon. This morning I threw a Hock blade and breaker in my Bailey #4. Wow, you weren’t kidding about the difference. It’s a whole new tool now.” Zach
” I loved the inlay class, and was amazed how quickly those skills could be learned in the online format.” Colin R.
” I appreciated the “close up” photos that you showed a couple times during the 5 machines episode. I especially like your insights and tips. Keep them up!” John K.
“This was my first virtual Woodworking class and I had my doubts as to how it would work out. I was pleasantly surprised that the class was interesting and useful, well worth the time and 25 bucks. Also, good to have a look inside your shop.” Dale T.
“I wanted to give a personal thank you to Gary and everyone involved in the hand planes webinar. I was learning and smiling the whole way through. Truly an amazing job!” Casey T.
“Thank you Gary for the fine session. I really enjoyed it. I thought the online training via Zoom really went well, like I had a front row seat. I love hand planes and learned some good tips last night. Your use of props was good and like I said, I found it very informative and organized. You know your stuff.” Rick W.
Gary answers a reader and student’s question about taming tear out by changing the angle on a chip breaker. Sometimes you have to also adjust your hand plane to accommodate this modification. Change your plane’s frog position, file a wider mouth opening or file the chip breaker to adjust to the blade better.