While school is not over for a couple of weeks, Saturday 21st November not only saw the opening of ‘Transformation’, the Sturt School for Wood class of 2015’s exhibition, it was also a very special occasion – celebrating the hard work and marking the great achievement and graduation of the class of 2015 – 12 students in total. The event included many well worded thanks and speeches from inspirational individuals, well-known in fine furniture circles, including Rodney Hayward, David Upfill-Brown and Phoebe Everill.
Even though I can count on my fingers the amount of times I have met the class of 2015 I feel like I know each and every one of them – you have played a very big and special part in our lives this year (and beyond I hope), and its an absolute privilege and a pleasure. Congratulations all of you! I know it has been a journey for each and every one of you with twists and turns, ups and downs, with munts and marvels a plenty!
The graduation exhibition is aptly named Transformation celebrating the students unwavering dedication to learning the necessary skills and techniques, and their personal commitment to delivering inspirational designs, technical precision and hard-work to transform their raw materials into art. The very delivery of such a fine exhibition also marks their own personal journeys and growth as individuals, artists and skilled craftspeople. You should all be very proud of yourselves and your own transformations. Every one of you will have got something different from the year and I hope it has given you as much as it has given us – a new sense of self and purpose, new friends and a new direction.
Although I thought starting this course would be the beginning, and the year the adventure for us – its clear now, that the fine furniture course at Sturt School for Wood is indeed the beginning, but the year is just the start of an ongoing adventure for us.
As those of you who know us you will know I am the proudest proud thing ever – not just because Chris was awarded the Studio Woodworkers, Australia Emerging Professional Award (which is awesome and amazing) in addition to his certificate (which is also fantastic) but because of how hard he has worked so far and the exceedingly fine furniture he has produced already and its only the beginning.
The exhibition of works by the graduating students from Sturt School for Wood 2015 is still on at Sturt Gallery, Mittagong, NSW and runs to the 5th December. Get on down there and do some Christmas shopping!
So I figured it was about time for me to introduce myself! I’m Chris and I guess I’m the one to blame for this latest upheaval in the lives of Laursie and I. It may seem moving from Bondi to Bulli (about an hour and a bit south) would pale in significance compared to moving to Aussie from England but this feels just as big a change (although now as citizens there is no worry we’ll be sent back!) and in many ways more nerve wracking, but at the same time feels like the right move.
I will from time to time be writing blog entries, mostly it’ll be Laursie writing as she is much more wordy! But I will try to give my take on what’s happening in the wood side of things and try to explain what I’m doing, or at least what I’m attempting to do in the workshop.
I’ve been at Sturt School for Wood now for 3 weeks and so far I’m loving it. The teachers and the other students are great, we’ve completed a few little projects and learnt a lot about the basics as well as things I didn’t know that I didn’t know!!
It’s amazing how quickly the day goes when you are interested and enjoying what you’re doing! Something I’ve never really experienced in my school or work life, but I do get the feeling these are the easy days and the work will get much more intense, difficult and time consuming!
So it’s with excitement and some trepidation that I look forward to the coming months and hope you’ll join us on our adventure!?!
First time we mowed the lawn, first time I had a huge spider run up my leg while gardening, first meeting of the neighbours, first splinter of the course (sustained on day one!), first time Chris has attended a talk from a nurse where finger loss was mentioned and the appropriate ‘digit bag’ was learned about (There was a discussion after about why there were so many bags?!) and of course the very first complete week of the fine furniture course! Good news – all Chris’ fingers survived the whole week! Actually I made Chris promise a long time ago when we talking about this course that he wouldn’t lose any part of any finger – not even just a little bit or else! I hope the seriousness of my threat will make him be more careful!? We will see – fingers crossed(?!) they all remain present and correct!
As you would expect the first week was a little admin heavy initially and day one saw the selection of a work space/bench, personalisation of a pigeon-hole for the year and the wearing of name tags!
The week has flown by and it’s been really good! Still got some work to do on catching trains on time and planning ahead so we actually have food in the house. The neighbours must already think I’m a little odd with the ‘spider related squawking freak out in the garden’ incident and then back I come from a run (to Coles the supermarket in Thirroul) with a zucchini and brocollini in one hand and a sweet potato in the other. Should have thought about it and took a bag!
Chris had some exciting goings on this week – he managed to take his Grandpas’ old Acorn plane made in Sheffield, England (Interesting fact – Acorn was bought out by Stanley by 1936.) and restore it so that he can use it! He managed to get a 0.02mm wood shaving out of it and that’s pretty darn good! There was also a reasonably successful inaugural pub quiz outing, the decision was made to name their team ‘TimberBits’ after one of the sponsors at school and they managed to come 6th out of at least 12 teams.
I have come to the conclusion that it’s going to be a fight for Chris to keep his fingers and/or clothes a normal colour – even in week 1 they have been blue (paint), purple (rust removal solution) and black/grey from slurry formed in the tool sharpening process.
Chris’ workbench has now been prepared (flattened, conditioned, oiled and waxed) and every tool has now been appropriately ground, flattened, sharpened, honed and/or tuned ready to go! The chisels are so sharp that you can wave it at your arm hair and end up with a bald spot! May the woodworking begin!!
It’s happened we have moved! We now live in Bulli! I am commuting into the fine city of Sydney and Chris starts his fine furniture making course at Sturt School for Wood next week!
The move was mammoth, a sweaty four day marathon of moving far too much stuff down far too many stairs and cleaning! Thanks Sydney for the boiling hot weather – just what you need when moving house! Never mind… Everyone and everything survived! Even the washing machine which I swear jumped off the trolley when we were unloading it off the truck. It’s got the battle scars you would expect from leaping into the air and landing face down but amazingly it works!! The door required some not so gentle encouragement to reopen but hey! We got lucky!! We are not fully unpacked but that’s ok. We kind of know where the important things are for now!
Anyways before we get into actually sharing with you the learning about furniture making and all that goes with it, I realise you know a little about the new adventure – but not much about the journey so far?
We have been together almost 16 years… We are not married. I will just let that sink in for a bit as usually people marvel at this fact for a little while. The marvelling is usually accompanied by incredulous gasps and further questioning….We like to say its because we don’t want to rush in to anything or perhaps that we want to be sure but actually it’s kind of because we don’t feel the need and we spend our money on doing other things! We met when I was 17 and Chris was 18! It was Chris’ general aura of cool and his sideburns that did it and still do it to this day! That and he is of course handsome and hilarious although I am pretty funny too! (Well I like to think I am?!)
We have done the long distance thing. We have travelled to many places near and far. We have encouraged each other and mocked each other incessantly! We have sulked together (and separately on this one)! We have shared our oldest friends and made new friends together. We have spent months on the road together. We have muddled on and supported each other through thick and thin and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We balance each other out. We are a team!
I don’t want to bore you with a tedious timeline or be overly soppy (hoping the above doesn’t qualify as that) but happy to answer questions – random or otherwise. So what else do you want to know about the journey so far or maybe the journey ahead? Ask away!
It’s a rainy Sunday and this week we have made some exciting progress but before I tell you about that I want to stop and appreciate the fine tool purveyors we have had the pleasure of dealing with so far. Armed with a spreadsheet, painstakingly researched and cross-checked, detailing must and good to have’s Chris has purchased what is needed for his first term of his course from two companies which I can only assume are going to be like a home away from home from now on. The first being Carbatec where the guy greeted the news that Chris would be studying next year with glee. Carbatec’s Price Shavings magazine is little short of awesome! (WARNING – I am a big fan of puns, dad jokes and one-liners and don’t hold it against me but I work in Marketing!) I was won over immediately by the ‘shavings/savings’ situation but looking inside its full of advertising gold!
Shavings … wood related savings! Nice!
Price shavings on actual shaving items!
It’s in da hood!
Nice coffee table – thanks Carbatec
I do believe there are 2 in the picture! Get up Susan -stop being lazy!
Also want to appreciate the fine services of Henry Eckert – importers of the Lie-Nielsen heirloom quality tools. These tools are beautiful – I have no idea what some of them do but they say they will last a lifetime – I look forward to them being part of our journey and perhaps even creating things that also last for our lifetimes and beyond! So… good news! We have found a house to rent… I haven’t seen it in person yet but it looks great. We went from nothing to sorted in three days flat even though apparently it was a very competitive process (who knows whether what the property people tell you is true or not!). By the end of Wednesday we were the chosen ones! Bulli here we come!
It will be a big change from apartment living and being in busy Bondi with its hipsters, glamourati, backpackers, coach tours and ever loyal locals. What are we looking forward to most…
enjoying the sound of nothing other than perhaps some over enthusiastic birds rather than waking up to the sound of horns and angry drivers at the roundabout or some crazy backpackers
being able to get out of the house without stepping over a fellow building resident passed out drunk in the corridor
if we forget something on the way out, not having to climb 2 flights of stairs to go and get it
having an outside space … an actual genuine garden
being able to hang washing out in said garden! (Sad or what!)
feeling like we are on holidays even if it’s just the weekend in the much more sedate Bulli!
We will miss Bondi I think but looking forward to a change. Not looking forward to the actual move so much! Best get my muscles warmed up!
So no matter who you are, the words ‘career change’ followed by ‘going back to school’ sound pretty daunting. This is starting again, it is not a ‘this will look great on my cv’ type occasion, keeping up appearances or trying to get ahead with something extra – all this is of course hard work but ‘this’ – quitting work as Chris has known it for the last 15 years to study a course in fine furniture making – is putting what he has done, up to this point, aside and starting again! School starts at the beginning of Feb so the count down is on!
Were/are there doubts that this is the right thing to do? Naturally! But if a positive change (and hopefully happiness) hangs on a decision which is in your power to make and if no change was going to perpetuate the downward spiral of job loathing and depression then no matter how nerve wracking wouldn’t you choose to change something?
Making the decision to actually commit to change and embark on this journey seemed like the hardest thing to do but I have no doubt that the hard work is yet to come!! I am sure I don’t need to tell you life in general is expensive, learning is challenging and achieving success – whatever that looks like for you – the ultimate and elusive goal!
We are however doing it… well, Chris is doing it really but I am here to cheer him on and share the journey with all of you in the hope that one day you will perhaps see some fine wooden furniture made by Chris and know the story behind it!
PS Once Chris starts his course we hope to share all kinds of woodworking updates including showing off all his hard work! Watch this space!