the other end of the plank

In the fall of 2009, I lost two very influential people in my life. I felt my passion for the craft and life for that matter fade. I struggled, and allowed traditions once dear to me, slip through the cracks. 

After Jim passed, I found it difficult to listen to Jim’s voice, and the lectures he provided me to pass along to our students, were set aside, waiting for the right time. At the beginning of Caroline’s second year, I recognized a spark, one that needed to be kindled. We began listening to Jim’s lectures again, each Friday after class. I later added a slideshow from the archive he passed along to the school. Gradually, I found it was easier to listen, and my feeling of loss was replaced with that of healing and hope.

There is a passage in A Cabinetmakers Notebook that has always been very dear to me. On page seventy three, third paragraph, it reads:

 “ Looking back on it, I realize that not everyone would have done it so consistently. I survived by simply refusing to do things because people wanted me to do them, or resorting to some sort of small series production and doing things multiply - two or three or four at a time. I made one object at a time because of the wood, because of the tools, with a certain idea and hope, and somehow these objects won friends and gradually, gradually, my confidence and experience increased. But for a very long time, it was touch and go. Even now, although people may think that I’ve got it made and things are going fine, even now I am only carrying my end of the plank. Someone else who is sharing life with me and has believed from the beginning in what I am trying to do is carrying the other end of that plank.”  - James Krenov

I read this passage when I presented my first piece, as a student at the College of the Redwoods, in honour of my soul mate, who has encouraged and supported me my entire life as a craftsman. When we set up the school, I felt it important to formally acknowledge the significant others in our lives, those who support us as we followed our dreams. At the end of each program, I would ask a student to read the passage. A few years ago, this tradition too had managed to slip through the cracks. 

Nondas and his wife Melissa visited our school a year ago this past fall. When they contacted the school, and suggested their schedule, Yvonne suggested they join us for our Friday Elephant and Jim’s lecture. I immediately recognized Nondas’s reverence for the craft, and JK. I remembered how carefully he handled one of Jim’s planes, as I handed it to him. This past February Nondas returned and joined us for Impractical Studies, and stayed on for Vidar’s Chair in the summer term. Melissa, spent much of the time commuting between Roberts Creek and Alaska, enabling Nondas to continue his studies. It was on a Friday evening during one of her visits, Melissa said to me, that she had recognized that evenings lecture as the one they had heard during their first visit to the school. It occurred to me then, that it was time to bring back another tradition. At the end of the summer term, students, alumni, family and friends, gathered in my shop to listen to one of Jim’s farewell addresses after which time, I called upon Nondas to read the passage. 

John's composing piece nearing completion

John's composing piece nearing completion

At the end of this past term, I asked John to read the same passage. This was John’s third term at the school in the past year. John arrived with very little experience in the craft, it has been a real pleasure to watch his progression as a craftsman, his focus and dedication to the craft has been an inspiration to witness. John’s lovely wife Haydee joined us for a couple of days in each of his last two terms and kept the home fires burning while John pursued his craft education. John’s fine cabinet in spalted big leaf maple on a stand of kwila is shown nearing completion.

Having completed Impractical Studies this past summer, Alberto returned for the Upward Spiral program and completed a fine reproduction of JK’s pipe cabinet in Garry oak. The wood was harvested locally and was selected by Caroline and myself, with this cabinet in mind. Alberto is in his third term at the school and making templates and selecting the material for Vidar’s chair.

In this past fall term, we had three students complete the Impractical Studies program. We are grateful that all three will be staying on at the school to complete the Upward Spiral program this term. Andrew and Jake will be making JK’s pipe cabinet and Mike will be making JK’s jewelry box.

Caroline is in her third year of study at the school. In the past term she provided our students with an afternoon consult each week, and on occasion supplemented Robert’s lectures with demonstrations of her own. In the coming term, while continuing work on her boxwood and beech cabinet, she will be offering our students two afternoon consults each week. As a teacher I am filled with a deep sense of pride watching her work with our students. Yvonne and I are so very grateful to have this fine young craftsman and dear friend with us here at the school.

Following our winter term, Yvonne and I will be heading to the Tree of Knowledge School in Israel, where I will be teaching a six day class on drawer making and fitting including drawers along a curve. The school is located in northern Israel and was established by alumni Oren Feigenbaum and Nathan VantHof.

Over the break, I managed to spent some time with a few special people in my life, and said goodbye to an old friend. After parking our 1987 Westfalia two and a half years ago we found it a new home. While I was sad to watch as it rolled down the road, I realize that the lifestyle changes that we have made in the time since parking it have been positive in every way. A year long experiment, has lead to a life changing experience for Yvonne and I. We are very fortunate to live and work where we do, and while I am not naive enough to think that everyone can be without a vehicle, simply, it works for us. 

Heart Hand & Eye continues to progress, slow but steady. The book has been a lot of work and a steep learning curve for me. The publisher and the editor have been very supportive and I am grateful for their patience.

“seems I’m talking my whole life, its time I listened now” - Mike Rosenberg 

Over the break, I was able to spend time in my shop everyday. I worked on my cabinet, on chairs with Gary, and on some days, I just puttered. It was during this time, that I realized just how meaningful this time is for me and that I am not quite ready to share it yet. In the coming term, I  will focus my time on teaching, writing and working in my shop. Perhaps when I complete my little cabinet, I will having something more to say. Until then, be well and enjoy your work, I know I am.