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Woodturning News: General News

THE CALRION-LEDGER:Crafting woodworkers (07/26/2017)

Thursday, July 27, 2017   (0 Comments)
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If you build it, they will come.

The famous line from the movie Field of Dreams applies at the Mississippi Crafts Center, where there’s now a spacious facility that can be used for teaching classes. The problem for executive director Nancy Perkins, however, was a lack of funding to purchase tools to teach woodworking skills to kids.

Then a former Mississippi Craftsmen’s Guild board member – who wished to remain anonymous – pledged $3,000 and asked fellow Guild supporters to match the donation. It was only a matter of days, once a funding page was set up, before the goal was met. Even better, donations continue to stream in, and the surplus will go toward scholarships.

“In the first day we already had people stepping up, and we appreciate everyone’s efforts,” Perkins said. “A huge part of our mission is to pass these (woodworking) skills along. We plan to have camps and scholarship money for economically-challenged students. If you put a tool in their hands, they love it. It’s a great time to teach them the joy of creating something themselves, with their own hands.”

Sammy Long of Brandon, a retiree who spends an average of 30 hours a week on wood turning and carving, began in 1999 when his father-in-law gave him an old wood lathe he no longer needed. Long, who turns bowls, hollow vessels and ornaments, was taught by instructors at the Appalachian Center for Crafts in Cookeville, Tennessee. His work is displayed there as well as in Ridgeland, where he teaches both wood turning and wood carving.

“I’ve taught two adult classes and one youth class,” Long said. “I see the students overwhelmed when they see what I have planned for them for the week. As the class moves along and each project is completed, the joy and happiness and feel of success is all over their faces and can be described as pure joy.

“That is when I feel like I have given back what was shown to me in all of the classes I have taken. Being able to teach the young and old to make something with their hands is very pleasing to me and them as well.”

Ken McLemore, a past-president of the Guild and a resident of Port Gibson, comes from a long line of craftspeople and began woodworking during his childhood. In addition to making bowls and spoons over the years, he attended lectures and workshops and launched a historic property restoration service.

“Later in my career I developed an affinity for teaching,” McLemore said. “I found passing on my knowledge of the craft to be most fulfilling. It also made me hone my hand-tool skills even more. I can’t imagine passing through this life and not creating anything, and I tell my students just that.

“God gave us hands, opposable thumbs, and a logical brain to control those thumbs – use them to make the world a little better place by creating. Many youth today, in spite of labels otherwise, are keenly interesting in becoming makers, to improve our world.”

Perkins said that many of her Guild members took shop, art classes, and home economics – which aren’t always offered in schools today.

“We have craftsmen who want to step up and teach all ages,” she said. “We want to have the tools and be teaching year-round. We have classes most of the time, and camp in the summer. Sampler camps are for kids 5-8. For woodworking, the parents need to tell us the child has an aptitude for woodworking if under age 13.”

“You’ll get some kids around 15 years old who are looking for something (fun to do), but the really young kids, 10-11 years old, are the ones you want to reach, that really want to learn,” said Steve Windham, owner of Windham’s Woodworks in Brandon and a Guild member since 2006. “My dad taught me everything I knew about woodworking except wood turning, which I taught myself (through) trial and error.

“Now, with the internet, you can become a really good wood turner within two years. You must have the equipment to be able to teach people to do this – a lathe, table saw, band saw – and their parents (be able to) afford it.”

The desire to teach, from McLemore and many other Guild members, is definitely there, and now the funding to purchase tools and pass along the skills – and the joys of woodworking – will be a reality at the Crafts Center.

“This is a chance for junior high kids that haven’t found their thing yet,” Perkins said. “If they found they had an ability to work with their hands, I think it will give them a whole new self-confidence that would carry over into other subjects.

“This is also a great thing for people when they retire. They might become good enough to become craftsmen themselves. (I’m envisioning) fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, fathers and daughters doing this together.”

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