From One Student to Another

Mary Lake took a two-week Basic Woodworking course in 2004, followed by a Twelve-week Intensive in 2005, and then served as a summer workshop assistant. What follows is her e-mailed reply to the questions of a potential student interested in taking a two-week  Advanced Furniture Making workshop taught by Craig Stevens and John Fox.

What were your impressions of the teaching staff (knowledge, helpfulness, accessibility, commitment)? Did the school seem to be professionally run?

The teaching staff are the best living furniture makers in America - and England and Australia for that matter. John Fox and Craig Stevens are among the most committed teachers I've met. They really want to teach, and their skill and expertise is unmatched. They are both excellent communicators, and students who ask a lot of questions are going to learn twice as much.

What were your impressions of the facility? Was it spacious enough and well-equipped?

We should all be so lucky as to have workshops like the Center’s. The building in which you will take your class has a large workbench room with twelve European-style benches, and a separate and fairly soundproof machine room that is huge. The equipment is all top shelf and very well maintained. So yes, it is spacious enough and very well-equipped.

Did you use the recommended private shared housing or did you find something different? How did that work out for you?

 I live in Augusta, Maine, which is about 40 miles from Rockport, so I chose to drive the distance every day. The people that I knew who stayed in private housing had nothing but good things to say about it. Peter goes out of his way to maintain good relationships with people who are able to provide housing.

What skill level/experience did you start out with and did you come away feeling that you had made significant gains? Did you think that the program was worth the time and money?

I started Basic Woodworking not being able to saw a straight line. At the end of that class, I felt extremely comfortable with both hand and power tools. As an assistant, I was able to solidify that knowledge by helping students. You will learn as much as you want to learn. All of the classes I've taken there have been the best use of my time and money I can imagine.

What was your experience with obtaining materials for your project and shipping it home?

Here again, Peter excels in providing the best materials available. (I think, though, if you go into the Intermediate or Advanced class with a project already in mind, you will be missing out on some of the best of the teaching - the creative process.) John and Craig teach how to read the wood to get the best from it, and that alone was worth the price of admission. Shipping - a company called Craters and Freighters will pick up, pack and ship with pretty expeditious delivery. I used C&F when I took a class at Anderson Ranch in Colorado, and they did an excellent job.

Do you have anything else to add?

You will never regret making the decision to attend a class at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship. The atmosphere is incredible - you are surrounded every day, all day, by people who love what they are doing. Everybody is happy. I think I was lucky in that I was a "blank slate" when I began - I did see some students in the more advanced classes struggling with the "but I've always done it this way" syndrome. Be open, ask lots of questions and take advantage of the fact that you have Craig and John's undivided attention. They really want to impart their experience and observations.

I hope you decide to attend!