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Lessons from a Chairmaker

Lessons from a Chairmaker
Lessons from a Chairmaker

On a whim, Deb and I stopped at a chairmaker. Of all the experiences, this is one that is sticking with me, it is one I will take home and remember over the years. I find this almost laughable. On the surface, there is nothing extraordinary about the chairmaker visit. We drove into a hidden driveway, one we had to turn around and go back for because we passed it before we realized it was there the first time.

The lane was muddy, puddled, soupy. We picked our steps up a browned-grass, sludged-mud path to the workshop door. A sign hung on the door warning us to be careful because the handle is loose.  We stepped into the workshop. It is just as you are picturing a chairmaker workshop to be…there is nothing remarkable. A light layer of sawdust coats the workbenches and tools and finished pieces of furniture.

“Welcome,” we are greeted by an ordinary man holding sandpaper. I’m sure just as you are picturing him is accurate because he looks just like the woodworkers in picture books. We smile tentatively. Breathe in the smell of wood dust. Look around and the details begin to surface. The hand carved spindles, the smooth chair seat, fashioned in contours, and the knob details all become exquisite in their simplicity.

Then he speaks more, telling of the process, sharing his work, talking about lumber. Something magical happens. The ordinary becomes extraordinary. The drab becomes remarkable. His quiet passion for his work takes over pulling me into his world. He offers us a piece of homemade sea glass candy. I put the jagged blue piece on my tongue and he encourages us to look around, take our time, and then cross the drive to the show room. “It’s best to begin here,” he said, “Because this is where it all begins.”

He is right. However, it doesn’t begin with the boards or the saws or the sandpaper. It begins in the heart of the chairmaker. His passion for the craft. His attention to detail stemming from the pride he takes in a job well done. I recognized this in him within moments of stepping into the shop. He turned the ordinary into spectacular and he made me see things differently.

Classrooms are another ordinary place, seemingly unremarkable. Yet, when teachers are passionate about children and learning, when we take pride in our work, the ordinary becomes spectacular. It only takes moments for passion to pull outsiders in to the magic, turning the ordinary into something rather remarkable. I left the chairmaker’s workshop wondering if my passion is as alive as his. Do I transform the ordinary into something extraordinary each day? Do people see things differently because of me?

May today be the day we let our passion for helping kids learn and grow and write and read take over and change things for the better.

Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

14 thoughts on “Lessons from a Chairmaker Leave a comment

  1. beautiful piece. Thank you for sharing this – it reminds me that there are passionate people in the world doing great things – it is inspirational.

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  2. And like the chair maker, we work at our craft every day, improve upon it, and make something that is complex and requires years of practice look relatively easy. This really makes me think about writing… how it starts out just a piece of paper (also derived from wood). Writing takes a general shape and then becomes more detailed and refined as we keep whittling away, polishing and sanding away the rough edges, making something unique that can never be completely replicated.

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  3. yes…yes you do, Ruth, every single day…you are my Donald Graves, my hope in this crazy educational world that seems to have landed on it’s head, yet again. Thanks to you passion and creativity…with others, of course we will land right side up again. xo nanc PS I love your comparison today!

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  4. My favorite line: the ordinary becomes spectacular. It’s moments like these in the classroom and in my home that make life so enormously special.
    Love this post! Great meaning for each day of teaching, writing, living.

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  5. “It begins in the heart of the chair maker.” so true, our passion, our drive, the thing that makes ordinary extraordinary begins in the heart of the artist. Love this little trip into the chair shop.

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  6. I’ve read lots of SOLs inthe past 25 days but this one will stay with me – bumper sticker logo quality! What a wonderful connection that could have included so many people who are passionate about whatever they do. I’m thinking of coaches, and skiers, seemstresses and winemakers, moms and dads, too. It is those with passion who can turn ordinary living into extrordinary events!

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  7. “when teachers are passionate about children and learning, when we take pride in our work, the ordinary becomes spectacular. It only takes moments for passion to pull outsiders in to the magic, turning the ordinary into something rather remarkable. I left the chairmaker’s workshop wondering if my passion is as alive as his.”
    A good question to ask. It’s it overwhelming to observe passion?

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