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Blog

Cutting It Close

jarrod dahl

I teach a fair amount of woodworking classes and basketry classes through out the year mostly in the midwest with some abroad both in the UK and Sweden.  I've taught all sorts of workshops from snowshoe building and weaving, steam bending and assembling toboggans, blacksmithing and tool making, how to make all kinds of birch bark stuff, a bunch of random cool greenwood stuff and of course spoon carving.

I started teaching formally after nearly 10 years of woodworking professionally. It began with a (now extinct) folk school that was in my area. We, April and I, were asked to teach a black ash basketry class. We were on the fence. We'd been weaving for 2-3 years, by then maybe a hundred baskets, but were unsure if we could teach. I'd kinda gotten out of weaving by that time but April was just getting going. We ended up teaching the class and from then on we were hooked. That was in 2000. 

Teaching can be a very rewarding experience. Folks can have all kinds of reactions as they  learn to use their hands to create something. It can be very empowering for folks and this is a really good thing. As a hand craft teacher I also learn a great deal from the experience. For example, how to communicate effectively, different ways of looking at things and how not all participants are looking for the same experience.

Sometimes, when April and I sit around we try to take a guess at how many folks we have taught since that first class.  We teach together and separately. We never have kept very good records so it's a guess. We estimate that the number is a few 1000 at least. Teaching is over half our annual income.

We take teaching very seriously. Every student must be understood and should understand. This has shaped the way I communicate. I've always went the extra mile to understand the students perspective instead of just relying on just my own. One of the hardest lessons for me was understanding that some folks don't want to do what I do. They don't want to talk about spoon design for 3 hours, or the subtle characteristics of birch wood. Most of the  time they do not want to be professionals. Many times folks just want an experience to build on. But sometimes they want more.

I have always taught workshops that have a finished product. It's easy to justify a class like that. But there are times when folks want more. More skill, more detail. For those who know my teaching style, I always bring a lot to the table.  But I have always wondered about a workshop that was not product based but skill based.

In a little over a week I have a workshop that is entirely skills based. It's called Cutting It Close. North House Folk School will be hosting the class. For the past 2 springs they have an event called Wood Weekend, a weekend full of short courses and lectures and a few days leading up to it with full workshops focused on a variety of woodworking projects. Really good classes! Some of the best in the country. 

I thought that I'd try an experiential based class. The focus will be on repetition and simple projects. The projects at hand are chopsticks and stirring spoons and other small stuff. Simple objects that can be made fairly quickly.  We can go though developing techniques instead of focusing on one or two finished spoons. Don't laugh, chopsticks are not easy to make, nor are stirring spoons. Truly straight, nicely tapered, smooth facets that are as long as the handle of the chopstick. Try it. You need precise skills to do it well. This class is about exploring and developing better techniques.

I've learned and carved with many of the best spoon carvers in the world and most agree that making chopsticks are a real challenge. Skill is developed through repetition.  This class will be really good for anyone wanting to take it to another level.

Check it out 

my class info here

or the event here