In Interviews

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A global pandemic derailed William Brown’s 2020 plans for his new woodworking school, but he’s not giving up.

When I last spoke with William Brown, it was January 2020 and he was getting ready to launch a brand new woodworking school in Camden, Maine. He had a workshop, a great set of instructors, and a plan to create a great learning opportunity for traditional woodworking and hand tools. But as well all know, last year was not kind to plans of any sort, and William’s vision went unfinished when the world went into lockdown. He hasn’t given up though, and is optimistic that by this summer the first small group of students will be walking through the door of his shop to start learning.

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity

Outside of delaying the opening of your woodworking school, did the pandemic impact you in other ways?

Not too much impact. I continued to work in my shop and actually my output of high-end period pieces was quite high this year. I’m heavily into Federal style right now and have really pushed my limits and then some trying new designs and techniques. It’s also been a good year for the sale of my Bellamy eagle and other traditional folk carvings. I’ve had many requests to teach a Bellamy eagle class so I’m planning one for next year at the school. I also have been posting a blog series on how to carve a classic American Bellamy Eagle.

You’ve previously expressed some hesitation in providing online classes. What sort of things do you think are lost when learning through a computer screen?

I think the only hesitation would involve my being lazy. I am 90% Ludite when it comes to technology and often find it hard to get motivated to work at a computer when I’d rather be in the shop. Obviously the hands-on aspects of teaching are lost along with the immediate feedback from the master teacher. And, as I mentioned, the camaraderie that comes along with taking a class with others that share the passion is such a wonderful part of the in-person experience. That said, there’s a lot of benefits of online classes such as savings in time and money. And just seeing how it’s done visually is extremely valuable and may be enough to go try it on your own. So, online classes would be great if I had the time. I just wish I had a 14 year old around to help me figure it all out.

Can you detail some of the steps you’re taking to make sure the classes are as safe as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

We plan to abide by state guidelines regarding Covid. The shop is a small one, so our advice is for anyone who feels they are at high risk or will not be comfortable in a small shop setting may prefer waiting until 2022. Because our classes are so small I do plan on moving ahead this summer as Maine lifts restrictions. Here are few more steps we are taking to minimize the threat of the virus spreading and to ease concerns:

All classes will be limited in size. Most will be 6-8 max. but as small as 5.
All classes are fully refundable if canceled
All benches, machines, hand tools, and door handles are sanitized after each class.

Spots are still available for classes this summer, and you can register on the Maine Coast Workshop website.

2021 Class schedule

June 14-18, 2021     Alexander Grabovetskiy (from FL) – Classical Carving Fundamantals

June 19-21               Marty Leenhouts (from MN) – Chip Carving from a Master

July 5 – 9                  Frank Strazza (TX) – Marquetry and Inlay

July 12 – 16              Mary May (SC) – Acanthus Carving ‘Deep Dive’

August 9 – 14          Matt Kenney (MA) – Make a Kumiko Tea Cabinet

September 13-18   Ray Journigan (VA) – Make & Carve the iconic John Elliott Chippendale Stool

October 3-9             Alf Sharp (TN) – Make a Queen Anne Chair

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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