Sarah Watlington is one of 43 fine woodworkers who are showcased in the exhibition Making a Seat at the Table: Women Transform Woodworking. We conducted a brief interview via email to find out more about her work.
Why is this exhibition important to you?
On a personal note, it feels powerful to share a platform with people you venerate. When those people represent a demographic you align with, and one that is often underrepresented in your field, it is doubly so. In a larger context, I believe this show is important because it challenges the viewer to question their narrow understanding of the definition of woodworking. The breadth of work being made today moves far beyond what is traditionally conceived as woodworking and furniture making. The curators, Laura and Deirdre, did a fantastic job at choosing a diverse range of work to showcase this.
What advice would you give to your younger self about getting into woodworking?
When I was first becoming really interested in woodworking, I had this fear that signing up for it meant signing up for a life of isolation. The solitary woodworker holed up in their shop was the only narrative I knew. I was so wrong! My network of peers and mentors has grown exponentially since first attending the Krenov school and all that has since followed. So my advice would be to not stress about that, at least. The communal nature of the craft is its greatest asset, thankfully, because we all know it surely isn’t the pay. On that note, I might add, ‘diversify your incomes.’ Also, ‘don’t buy cheap tools.’
Which pieces in the exhibition stood out to you?
I have admired the work of Yuri Kobayashi and Laura Kishimoto through photos for a long time, so seeing their work in person meant a lot. Both of their creativity and expert execution in curvilinear forms is impressive, to say the least. The jewelry cabinet by Kristina Madsen equally blew me away with her mastery of craftsmanship.