Saturday, January 1, 2011

Growing in the New Year

A new year tends to cause one to pause and reflect, even if you’re not a big resolution person.  There is something renewing about the rollover into January 1st that makes us feel like we’re at another starting point…kind of like a chronological Mulligan.  Our problems don’t disappear and we’re not necessarily more skilled or wiser than we were on December 31st.  This little jump we make in the time-line does make us think about all that we’ve experienced over the previous 12 months and maybe even learn (or re-learn) a bit about ourselves and about our world.  Perhaps we do gain a little wisdom, even though we’ll date checks and documents with 2010 for the next week or two.
As I look back over this past year (dipping a bit into Dec 2009) I saw some pretty significant changes for myself and my family.  A big job transfer, new city (and a new climate), selling a house and buying another are the big changes that top the list.  There is so much for me to be thankful for and to have learned from in 2010.  I won’t bore you with all of my reflections here!  As I look back on the things that have impacted my woodworking this past year a few key things come to mind…
Our relocation really forced me to think about the type of work I’d like to do and where I want to focus my efforts.  The cold winter temperatures here in the Land of 10,000 frozen lakes have reduced my workspace to half of what I’ve been used to for around four months of the year.  I’m pushed to consider a level of efficiency and organization that I haven’t had to previously.  Sure it’s something I could complain about however, I’m making better decisions about my shop’s layout and giving strong consideration to what I should keep or how adding something new will disrupt my workflow.  I’d call that growth…even though I do still gripe about it from time to time.  Maybe 2011 will be the year of less whining.

My Dad has always been a main source of woodworking instruction, guidance and a sounding board for design ideas…and still is.  That’s a bond that I enjoy more and more every year.  Over the last few months I’ve also taken the initiative to reach out to a few other woodworkers that I admire for their work and their willingness to teach and share.  This is certainly a piece of advice that I would recommend for anyone pursuing a hobby/passion…find those folks who inspire you and reach out to them for advice and critique.  I’ve been a longtime follower of Marc Spanguolo’s website and podcast, The Wood Whisperer.  A recent e-mail to Marc was well received and he’s always very generous in sharing his knowledge about the craft.  I also had similar experiences with Tommy MacDonald, the host of the new PBS woodworking show,”Rough Cut”, and with Doug Stowe, teacher, author and box maker extraordinaire.  One of the best things about the woodworking community is the willingness of its members to teach and share, to pass on what they know.  I’m sure it’s the same for many things in life.  Get yourself plugged in with those that can teach you and help push you to that next level.
For your browsing pleasure…

A final revelation came from examining my involvement in woodworking over the last several years.  I realized that even though I have a great desire to design and build, I’ve let other things rob me of my passion for the craft.  I recalled that the last time I was heavily engaged and focused I was attending courses at Santa Fe Community College’s Fine Woodworking program.  As I renew my attention and excitement for working with wood I decided that ongoing education and accountability are invaluable.  I haven’t found a program the likes of SFCC here in the Twin Cities however, I’ve found some great alternatives online.  I recently joined “The Guild”, an online educational program led by our buddy Marc, The Wood Whisperer, in which we’ll build several projects as a community (class) throughout the year.  I’m excited to start the next build, a hanging wall cabinet, in just a few weeks.  I’ll keep my eyes peeled for something local that I can engage in as well, but the option of The Guild Build gives me a lot of flexibility around a pretty busy life schedule.   You’ll see some blog posts in the coming months chronicling my build of the hanging wall cabinet.

 I was also considering “The Hand Tool School”, another online program by Shannon Rodgers, The Renaissance Woodworker.  Enter another lesson from my reflection…In my excitement I sometimes take on quite a bit, making for a life too busy to really enjoy, so in the interest of mining some wisdom from last year I think I’ll just work on The Guild program for now. 
So as we move into 2011, I look back on 2010 and, even though there were some tough spots, I can appreciate all of the experiences that it brought, and where they have brought me to.  Many folks will say, “Good riddance”, to the old year, happy to move on to the next Mulligan.  Just be sure to reach back and dig out the diamonds of the past year before you close the book.  There may only be few, but surely there is always at least one worth pulling out.

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