Tuesday, September 19, 2006

New Fixation: Woodworking

Last Christmas, I was in the van with my Mum -- I think she was driving me from my place to hers, or we were going to Bayshore... it was dark and it was snowing -- and we were discussing careers she thought would be interesting. She mentioned a traditional masonry programme in Perth. Of course, when I got home, I Googled the course, and found Algonquin's Heritage Institute. They've completely redone their website since I last visited; it looks spiffy now, but I can't find the handsome video they made showcasing the students' fine work. That video made me sigh... Why did it have to be offered in Perth?

Although I think the Masonry projects were beautiful, I just don't have the arms/back/knees for that kind of work. Come to think of it, I probably don't have the strength for the Carpentry programme either. Regardless, the Heritage Institute website reminded me of how much I enjoyed the woodworking section of my Ottawa U Sculpture class (ugh, how I hate modern art). It's a pity I couldn't find a home for that 3 panelled Maple privacy screen... it was simple but beautiful (aside from the insert).

I started looking into *local* woodworking programmes, and found a 48 week Furniture Technician degree at Algonquin's Woodroffe. The description sounded rather dry and uninteresting; I was worried the degree simply prepared you for working in a factory... "Furniture Technician" doesn't sound very ... erm... craftsman-ish. However, the course descriptions sounded more lively, as did the "Employment Opportunities". I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to do with a Furniture Technician degree, but I knew I needed a break from University lectures... I wanted to work with my hands -- and get paid for it!

I spoke with DH about my desire to switch degrees... he wanted me to finish my BA Theatre before contemplating switching -- there was a very high chance wouldn't go back for the handful of courses I need to finish my degree (to him, that means I've wasted 4 years and $20k) He also was concerned that this was just another one of my fads (aka fixations); it would be a heck of a lot of money spent on something I'd drop in a couple months. He simply didn't see where I'd be working with my Furniture Technician degree since "Everyone gets their furniture at Ikea, now". Finally, DH objected to the equipment cost -- handtools, power tools, machines, etc.

I'll be the first to admit that DH had some very reasonable points.

1. It *would* be a good idea to finish the few courses I have left in my BA degree before switching to something else. There *is* a high probablity that I won't be returning to University. However, I wouldn't consider that time nor money wasted if I didn't complete my degree. Look at it this way... I started my BA Theatre with the idea that I would become an actress. I never wanted to work behind the scenes, or in a theatre-related desk job, or as a Stage Manager... I wanted to be on-stage. A degree might have looked nice on my resume, but my actual audition, appearance & availability would have been far more important. I've taken all the acting/voice courses available at Ottawa U -- it's the Modern Theatre History course I can't get though >.<>Graduates may find employment in furniture making and cabinetmaking, furniture repair refinishing and restoration, kitchen and commercial cabinetry as well as boatbuilding and refitting. Other career options include job estimating, sales of furniture, tools, hardware and machinery. Graduates are also well equipped for future self-employment. Did you say Boatbuilding? Man, that sounds cool. I also have it on good authority that quality kitchen cabinets are freaking expensive, and still in high demand... not everyone wants a factory-made Ikea kitchen. The website just needs to provide a little more info on the skills acquired, and potential careers provided. More information on this whole apprenticeship/journeyman thing would have been appreciated, too. DH thought that I was kidding when I talked about becoming an apprentice and then a journeyman...

4. Tools. Oh, how I love fine equipment. I used to spend hours ogling the pages of the latest Lee Valley catalogue. I didn't know what most of the tools were used for, but I loved the craftsmanship put into them (not to mention the magazine itself). I'm sure one day I'll own all the Veritas planes (even though the handles are too upright), Japanese Dovetail Chisels, Hirsch Firmer Chisels and an 18 tpi Dozuki, but until I'm actually making some decent money, I'll survive with what I can get my hands on (perhaps my Dad's planes *wink*, a set of 4 Narex Bevel-Edge Chisels, and a Japanese-style Dovetail Saw).

I understand DH is worried about me having to spend a fortune on tools, and find a workshop, but he doesn't seem to understand the work-environment most apprentices will be working in... I'd be working in the company workshop -- not my own... it's not like graduates are required to immediate finance their own workshop (unless they want to set up their own shop).

That's not to say I won't be rewriting my wishlist to include the aforementioned tools :)

To make a very long story short... I kept talking about the programme with my Mum, and she offered to finance the 48 week course at Algonquin. In exchange, she'll be my very first commission -- she wants me to redo her kitchen cabinets. I was too late to sign up for the theatre history course I needed at Ottawa U, so I signed up for the Cabinetmaking & Furniture Technician programme instead. DH doesn't have to worry about me wasting more of his money, my Mum gets quality, custom designed kitchen cabinets (and a new kitchen table *shhh*), and I get to try my hand at something completely new and exciting.

On the up side, DH seems to have warmed up to the idea of having a future Cabinetmaker for a wife. He keeps asking when I'll be able to build us a spice rack ;)