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A global pandemic derailed William Brown’s 2020 plans for his new woodworking school, but he is not giving up.
The last time I spoke to William Brown, it was January 2020 and he was preparing to launch a new woodworking school in Camden, Maine. He had a seminar, a great set of instructors, and a plan to create a great learning opportunity for traditional woodworking and hand tools. But as everyone knows, last year he wasn’t kind to plans of any kind, and William’s vision remained unfinished when the world went bust. However, he hasn’t given up and is optimistic that by the summer the first small group of students will come through his shop door to start studying.
The answers have been slightly edited for clarity
In addition to delaying the opening of your carpentry school, has the pandemic affected you in other ways?
Not too much impact. I continued to work in my shop and this year my production of high-end vintage pieces has been quite high. I really like the federal style right now and I really pushed my limits and then tried new designs and techniques. It was also a good year for the sale of my Bellamy eagle and other traditional folk sculptures. I’ve had a lot of requests to teach a Bellamy eagle course, so I’m planning one for next year at school. I have also published a series of blogs on how to sculpt a classic American Bellamy Eagle.
You have previously expressed some hesitation in providing online lessons. What kinds of things do you think are lost when learning through a computer screen?
I think the only hesitation would imply my being lazy. When it comes to technology, I am 90% recreational and often find it difficult to be motivated to work on the computer when I prefer to be in the shop. Obviously the practical aspects of teaching are lost along with the immediate feedback from the main teacher. And, as I said, the camaraderie that comes from taking a lesson with others who share the passion is such a wonderful part of the in-person experience. That said, there are many benefits of online classes such as saving time and money. And just seeing how it’s done visually is extremely valuable and might be enough to try it out for yourself. So, online classes would be great if you had the time. I just wish I had a 14 year old boy around to help me figure everything out.
Can you detail some of the steps you are taking to make sure the lessons are as safe as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
We plan to comply with state guidelines relating to Covid. The shop is small, so our advice is for anyone who feels high risk or doesn’t feel comfortable in a small shop, may prefer to wait until 2022. Since our classes are so small, I’m going to move on this quest. summer as Maine lifts restrictions. Here are some other steps we are taking to minimize the threat of spreading the virus and alleviate concerns:
All classes will be limited in size. Most will be 6-8 max. but as small as 5.
All lessons are fully refundable in case of cancellation
All desks, machines, hand tools and door handles are disinfected after each class.
Seats are still available for classes this summer and you can register on the Maine Coast Workshop website.
Class timetable 2021
June 14-18, 2021 Alexander Grabovetskiy (from FL) – Classical Carving Fundamantals
June 19-21 Marty Leenhouts (from MN) – Chip Carving from a Master
5 – 9 July Frank Strazza (TX) – Marquetry and inlay
July 12-16 Mary May (SC) – Acanthus Carving ‘Deep Dive’
August 9-14 Matt Kenney (MA) – Makes a Kumiko tea cabinet
13-18 September Ray Journigan (VA) – Create and sculpt the iconic John Elliott Chippendale stool
October 3-9 Alf Sharp (TN) – Makes a Queen Anne chair
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