Three weeks ago, we began our fall session of our Impractical Cabinetmaker Program. While I enjoyed our break immensely, having spent most of it in the shop and in our yard, I felt ready for the return to teaching and what has become our way of life. Over a decade ago, after suffering a non shop related injury which made it difficult for me to continue with my work, at least on a full time basis. I took the advice of two people very dear to me and turned my attention to teaching. Fifteen years later, and after much personal reflection, I have come to the realization that teaching has become, and will continue to be cherished aspect of my life. It may not have quite the appeal to some as the solitary life as craftsman, but it, combined with having a place of my own to work again, has given me balance in my life. This past summer I entered another stage in my life as a craftsman, I began to write. The first chapter of Heart Hand & Eye is due to be in my editors hands this coming Monday. I am very much looking forward to working with John Kelsey on this book. I will continue on my cabinet and chairs, a couple hours each morning, before heading into the school, in preparation for our tenth year anniversary exhibition next May. The rest of my day will be spend teaching, writing, and enjoying this beautiful place we live.
What has made all this possible, is my soulmate, my partner in life and work, and her unwavering support throughout my journey as a craftsman. I no longer look at my life as a craftsman, teacher and writer as separate entities, the teaching and writing is just part of my life as a craftsman.
For several years, we tried bringing in alumni to assist with the program. There never seemed to be a good fit, and to be quite clear, I blame myself for this. As someone who has always been very passionate about what I do and how I do it, and having made a promise to an old friend to always stay the course, there was very little room for deviation from our mission. We decided to let the idea go and focus on getting the program where I it wanted to be. After trying variations of the conventional nine month program, including a second year and residency, we went our own way. We opted for four ten week programs providing us with a comprehensive full year program, with four intakes a year. Focusing on what we do well and formalizing our commitment to the education of craft, honouring JK’s legacy. The Impractical Cabinetmaker Program is entering its second year, having replaced our Artisan and Craftsman programs and thus far has been very well received by our students.
David Welter, a dear friend, was one of my teachers when I was student at the College of the Redwoods. He is a true Krenovian, and has been the guiding light for the program there for many years. A few years ago, after trying various alumni in part time teaching roles at the school, and not finding the right fit, I shared my disappointment with Yvonne. She smiled and said, “Don’t worry you’ll find your David Welter for our school someday.”, and while I admit that comparison raises the bar, We found him. Or should I say her. It was two years ago this past August, that I arrived at the bus stop a couple of days before our fall term, to take in our recycling, that a young woman asked me if I was Robert. She introduced her self as Caroline, “I am one of your students”. We chatted at the stop, and on the way into Gibsons. When I got off the bus ahead of her, I had no idea the impact she would have on our school. It was obvious from the start that she really understood what our school was all about. Passionate about our material, with a strong reverence for the craft and to JK. When she was nearing completion of her first year, she suggested that she wanted to stay on for a second year and a residency. Ironically it was about the time, when after years of development, we were ready to phase out the second year and residency programs in favor of our Impractical Cabinetmaker Program. After discussing it with Yvonne, we agreed one last one.
In the last ten week session, Caroline worked along side Nondas, in Vidar’s Chair Program. I asked her to make another Vidar’s chair, this one for my shop. The chair would be used to demonstrate the process of making the chair. When we spoke about it for the first time, I suggested that, as it is a shop chair, there was no need to finish it completely. One arm shaped, the other off the bandsaw would be fine. During the last break, she delivered it to my shop. As I write this I am sitting in a fine chair that has but one tiny bandsaw mark left, in the top of left arm, which Caroline choose to leave as a reminder of our initial conversation, the rest of the chair is flawless, consistent with her work. This fall she has begun the transition from student to teacher, as she provides our students with individual consults on Thursday afternoons each week, after my afternoon lecture. As I write this, I am so very grateful for her presence at our small school.
Be well and enjoy your work,