I spent the evening of St Valentine's Day with the husbands of 4 other women and the partner of a very nice bloke. I am a woodwork whore, I tell you.
Woodwork started again last night and I'd forgotten how much I enjoy it, having taken last term and much of the one before off due to the family health crisis.
Graeme, the bloke who runs the class, is great. When I turn up with sketches, measurements and hopes for things like "niddy-noddies", "umbrella swifts", "Andean plying tools" and "lazy kates" - he barely turns a hair. When I show up with examples of these things and say "I want to make this, only better, and I want to make 6 of them", he blanches a little and then facilitates. He is mindful of my COMPLETE LACK OF SKILL in this area, and still manages to help me create minor miracles. He never fails to try and improve my knowledge and my skills - the man's an optimist and a great teacher.
The other blokes are great, too. In the main, the Wednesday crowd is a rotation of the same guys. They let Maree and I go for a little light relief, I'm sure. This group, in various permutations, have been showing up to Graeme's class for years. It's a woodwork Stitch 'n' Bitch, really.
I've been going for nearly a year now. It took a term for some of them to actually speak to Maree and I, but they let it be known that we were welcome to come back after our first term, so we must have done something right. I think it might have been that we were really happy to put on the earmuffs and leave them alone. Maree has two young boys and I have a demanding job and family - we LOVE the earmuffs.
Some of the work these guys do is amazing. Mostly they focus on their task with the occasional "whacha workin' on?" and "ah, tallow wood - nice" type conversation with each other. Sometimes, when there's a lull in the process, they can be lured into discussing their projects and why they do them. They can be quite poetic in a gruff Aussie bloke way, although after the Timber Show last year they couldn't be shut up about the timber they'd bought, the new tools they'd seen, the bargains and what was next in the queue. It was terribly, terribly familiar, only the medium was different.
They are tolerant and accepting of Maree and me. They know we are rank amateurs and likely to remain so. We are garter stitch scarf knitters to their Shetland lace confections, but there is room for us in their club.
Making my own spinning and knitting accessories was a little odd to them initally, and the first time I whip out my knitting while I'm waiting or taking a coffee break, I get a few looks, but these guys are smart. They understand the process of making and the joy of creation. They respect the skills involved in creating with yarn in the way I respect the skills invovled in creating with timber. Most are genuinely interested in the application of their chosen craft to making tools for mine and tease each other with the new terminology.
Bloke 1 to me indicating pile of dowel "So what's that you're making?"
Bloke 2 to Bloke 1 in incredulous tone "Haven't you seen a niddy-noddy before, mate? Wanna see the Andean plying tool - Go on, Taph, show him the Andean plying tool?"
These guys create with timber the love tokens we create with yarn. A dainty fretwork box, a dining table from a single slab of red gum, a garden bench, a DVD case, a rain guage stand, a turned bowl - these are all tokens of love to their families and friends. It was a lovely way to spend St Valentine's Day.