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Peter Galbert - Chair Notes
That's right, the time has come, I am beginning to scout out locations and facilities in southern Maine for a school. After a couple of years of transition and quiet following my move and book release, I am ready to put together a school dedicated to teaching small groups of people chair making and also roping in some of my most gifted friends to share their talent and energy as well. My goal is to keep things intimate and relaxed, just a great place, in a great place to do what we all love.
I welcome any input and advice as I enter this endeavor as well as any tips from folks who know the area that I'm considering. I want to be within a couple hours of Boston (I still have my roots there) and also close enough to some great towns and sights that can be a part of the experience. I've learned a lot from my friend Kelly Mehler and the good folks at The Port Townsend School of Woodworking and Highland Woodworking about how to create an environment that puts the craft and the students first and I look forward to seeing you there!
I will be posting progress reports as things develop and a schedule at the earliest possible date. I hope to start in the spring of 2018 and offer classes through the fall.
I just got back from a great trip to Iowa for the third Handworks, and I assume, like many of the exhibitors, I've spent most of the day asleep on the floor with my dogs. I find that following their nap rhythm is the only plan that makes sense after such and active and exciting few days.
I think woodworkers take the cake as far as dog obsession (sorry Megan). In my case at least, I'm comfortable admitting that making a life in woodworking is basically an attempt to recreate and extend my favorite childhood moments. Dogs and sticks...what more do I have to say...Rosebud?
I'll cut right to the chase with what I've learned, and believe it or not, relate it back to woodworking and chairmaking. Anyone with expertise or years of experience knows how tough it can be to explain the process to a newcomer. How can they not understand that their tools are dull or their technique is wrong, it's so obvious?! This brings me to my second quote
Patience is a mild form of despair, disguised as a virtue
When I finally taught Georgie that jumping in the truck could be fun (there's safety and treats in there), I thought that I'd opened up a whole new world of adventure, we can go anywhere now!
But then how do I get her out?
If my other dog Kobe is there, she follows him out, but otherwise, no deal. So my first inclination was to grab the dog, put her on the ground, give her a treat and then expect that now she knows that it's all good. I did this a couple of times, but the fear instilled by my reaching for her was worse than any promise of a treat. To her, the truck ride is still novel, and that door opens to a great swirling abyss. Reaching in to grab her is akin to the disembodied arm reaching out of the darkness!
Thinking from her perspective is one of the most challenging mental games that I've come across, there is so much that we take for granted. So here's what I did. We went to the truck in the driveway, I opened the door and she hopped in happily. Then I held a treat so that she'd have to stick her head out just a bit to get it. Then she retreated. The next one was a little further out and finally, she hopped down to get one on the ground, this is the driveway that she knows after all. Multiple treats and then a well earned retreat to the truck.
Then we repeated the process about 4 times until she hopped down willingly. Throughout the day, I walked her to the truck about 3 more times to repeat this process. At the end of the day, I leashed her up, drove her to the park, crouched next to the car and called her out, and she hopped down and off we went. Not all our work is this fast. New people and experiences are still a challenge.
I think that extending this kind of patience with students, or even better, ourselves, while learning is essential. I recall wanting to learn woodworking, but I had such trouble letting myself take a little at a time, I wanted to master is all, get to that end ability. But like it or not, I think we all learn more like Georgie. Finding out what parts you are comfortable with and stepping into risk with some safety is essential.
Students often remark that I am very effusive in my support during class. It isn't false praise, what I see is a bunch of adults, experts in things that I probably know nothing about, putting themselves out there and trusting me to guide them through uncharted territory. It's a leap of faith and act of bravery that I've rarely risked.
Moral of the story, besides get a dog? Give yourself a break, take a moment to think of your goals as well as your achievements and remember, even though the piece that you are working on will be finished, your process marches on. What kicks your butt today, you will soon take for granted.
April 10-15 at North Bennet Street School in Boston, I"ll be teaching the Balloon Back/ Fan Back chairs (your choice of style and turnings). It's a 6 day class with 8 students and I'll have a great helper in the form of Eli Cleveland. We are also going to be adding a Continuous Arm class in August and this course serves as the prerequisite for taking the it. Here is a link for enrolling.
I hope to see you there. I am really enjoying my relationship with the school and hope to continue offering and expanding the chairs that we are building. These classes have been some of the best I've had a chance to teach, with great facilities and small class size, everyone gets lots of attention and we have a great time.
I will be at Handworks in Amana, Iowa May 19-20 again this year, I love this event and can't wait to catch up with everyone.
I'll be back in Maine for the Lie-Nielsen open house on July 7-8, as usual, because it's such a great time to catch up with my friends who come every year and meet some new ones.
I will also be teaching a Perch making class overs two days at Lie-Nielsen in Maine on the weekend of July 22-23. This class was a blast last year and I'm looking forward to it.
I will also be at the Greenwoodfest here in Massachusetts, but I hear that it's sold out. For those who made it in, I look forward to meeting and seeing you!
I will probably have at least one more class in the fall at North Bennet Street, but for the most part, I will be spending this year making chairs and playing with my dog...and that's true.
As the class was winding down, I went down to Colonial Williamsburg to present, along with the outstanding Don Williams and the folks from the Cabinet and Jointers shop, on chairs...of course.
|photo by Tom McKenna|
It was a great trip and an honor to be invited. If you ever get the chance to attend, I highly recommend it.
And here is your Georgie update! She is thriving and turning out to be the easiest dog I've ever had. Playful and loving but extremely calm on her own. She is now acclimated to all the shop noises and all my hustling about. When it gets to be too much, she just retires to her crate for a nap! We are still working on new experiences. The first time she saw the television she freaked, but now she sits calmly while it's on, I don't think that she had ever heard a voice come from a box.
|I know it's gratuitous, but I"m smitten|
|Lil would approve of her technique|
|The truck is becoming a safe space, this is their first ride together|
I spent four months as a resident artist at SUNY Purchase, which is a college just north of White Plains, New York. It was a fantastic experience getting to have time to create whatever I wanted and interact with a group of wonderful young people. I had minimal teaching requirements, just a few hours a week and found myself exploring ideas that would be tough to do in my normal shop time.
I made sculptures, chairs, and chairs that were somewhat sculptural!
Here are some images of the pieces from the exhibit at the end of my time there. Here is a rocker that I made.
When I first arrived at the school, I was frankly a bit burnt out from making lots of chairs to fulfill all my obligations while clearing 4 months of my calendar. There were a bunch of discarded logs outside the studio, so I started splitting and carving them to make it look like there were objects embedded in them. If you've ever split a log, you know that moment of discovery when it is finally in half and you can see what you got. I always thrill at this moment and enjoyed the thought of these objects meeting me there.