You know I’m a big fan of Woodworking in America, it is a great time away from the day job, focused on woodworking with other woodworkers. I’ve been to two of them so far with the first one was focused on skill building and making connections. Last year was about renewing those connections and getting some special tools. I had a blast and learned a lot. It was a great time.
This year Woodworking in America is splitting into two shows, the traditional venue in Cincinnati, and a new location in Pasadena California. At first, my reaction was mixed: I’ll miss the guys who attend the Cincinnati show when I’m in Pasadena, but I’m excited for a shorter and cheaper flight.
Now Fine Woodworking mixes up the whole situation again with their announcement of Fine Woodworking Live August 2-5 at SUNY New Paltz.
Will I Be There
I’m not sure I’ll attend Fine Woodworking Live, but we do have friends in New York that are getting married – so we might be in that area anyway. If I’m in town, I’m attending. There isn’t a mention of a vendor area, but that wouldn’t stop me from attending anyway. However I’m currently planning to attend only one show: Woodworking in America in Pasadena.
Justifying Three Shows Per Year
After reading the post and some comments over on The Woodwhisperer’s site I am convinced that this is a good thing, and an opportunity to grow the woodworking community. To me it says a lot about the resurgence of woodworking to see Popular Woodworking believe that they will have enough attendance for two shows, and for FWW to believe that they believe they’ll still get enough attendees to justify their own, competing show. The business decision makers and sponsors behind these shows wouldn’t go for it if they didn’t believe they had the attendee numbers to justify three shows in one year. That’s awesome, and I hope all these shows are successful.
Top Speakers and Interesting Topics
After looking that the schedule for Fine Woodworking Live, I’m excited about the sessions. I don’t know if the format will be similar to other shows, but the speakers they have lined up and the topics they will cover are genuinely interesting to me.
After a quick look, the top topics for me are:
- 5 Ways to Bend Wood with Michael Fortune
- Essential Workbench Jigs with Matt Kenney
- 40 Years of Woodworking Tricks with Christian Becksvoort
- 7 Steps to Beautiful Boxes Instructor with Matt Kenney
Making New Connections
Last year at Woodworking in America, one key topic of discussion was “How to Save Woodworking” it’s been an ongoing theme with Christopher Schwarz and was the subject of a banquet dinner at Woodworking in America 2011. We’ve been encouraged to start blogs, bring others into the craft, and work hard to educate consumers about the benefits of working with local woodworkers.
So, although I’m still bummed that I won’t see all the Cincinnati Crazies, I’m excited to meet new woodworkers, encourage them in the craft, and bring them into the community. Overall these three shows will collectively reach more people, and that’s great for woodworking and those that support it.
An opportunity that Popular Woodworking and Fine Woodworking are uniquely suited to help with is to open their shows up to the general public to help educate and increase demand for locally made furniture. These shows could have woodworking showcases with pieces for sale; they could advertise to and educate consumers; and have targetted business, marketing, and sales seminars for woodworkers.
For there to be resurgence of woodworkers, there must be demand for the products we woodworkers make, and Popular Woodworking and Fine Woodworking could help small woodworkers with that through their shows.
Here’s an excerpt of an earlier post I made on the subject:
Consumers are buying more locally and responsibly produced products in many areas of their life. Families attend farmers markets, buy handmade goods on Etsy, pursue organic food and fair trade coffee, and buy electric cars. They do this even when the products aren’t necessarily better, they do it for two other reasons (in my opinion). 1. The product is more authentic, and 2. the product is more responsible. People in Seattle worry about the carbon footprint of the California grown tomato. No really, they do.
It’s hard for me to explain what I mean when I say a product is more authentic. I guess the best example I can give is that authentic means that someone with real skill actually touched the product. Think Adele vs. Katy Perry, or The Gap vs. a hand-knit sweater. Responsible I think is easy – no one buys a Prius because it’s fast, sexy, or good looking. It’s a very ugly, slow, and uncomfortable car. People buy a Prius because they want to be responsible. They may tell you it’s for the economics, but I don’t believe them, especially those that paid a premium when they were in short demand.
So I think the position that woodworkers need make clear with consumers is that locally produced custom handmade solid wood furniture is better quality, but it’s also authentic and more responsible. When customers know that the wood for their piece was hand selected, shaped, joined, and finished by your hands, a warmth is imparted on the piece. You can enhance this by including them in the design, bringing them along to pick out the wood, and blogging in detail as you build the piece. It’s kind of like ultrasound pictures for a baby in the womb, only in this case the baby is their furniture and the womb is your shop.
You can also have conversations with consumers about the responsibility of your product. Use FSC certified woods, safe finishes, and build your product well. Explain to them about mass produced furniture being built from trees that shouldn’t have been harvested in the first place being shipped by the container full across oceans, cite examples of toxic finishes found on foreign made products, and help them understand that your product will never fall apart and end up in a landfill. And of course stand by your product if it does need repair.
Call To Action
So, if you’re a woodworker and you’re going to attend a show, great! But don’t spend too much time lamenting that you might not see all of your woodworking friends at the show. Be excited that our craft is growing, be outgoing and open and meet new woodworkers, and encourage them to continue in the craft. Let them know about all the resources that are out there: Twitter, #Woodchat, Wood Talk Online Forums, Podcasts, Blogs, The Woodwhisperer Guild, and The Hand Tool School, the Modern Woodworkers Association, and other resources. Get their contact information, and follow-up with them. Answer their questions, and introduce them to others. Get cheap VistaPrint business cards containing this information, and hand them out.
Go Be a Woodworking Ambassador!