Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Peters Valley School of Craft

2 weeks ago, I spent approx. a week at Peters Valley School of Craft, located in Layton, NJ to learn to make wood furniture from scratch. Making furniture has been a natural progression from upcycling furniture and making home goods such as leather throw pillows and the such for me. The experience was comparable to going to an overnight summer camp in a far-away forest. My roommate came from 5 hrs away. I met people in the "dorm" they housed us in from California, Philly, Pittsburgh and allover NJ.
I was the only student of color there the week I attended but I hardly noticed. The vibe was very warm and welcoming. The class I took, Furniture With Momentum, only had 4 students but there were about. a half dozen classes happening on campus in disciplines such as metalsmithing, blacksmithing, textile design, glass bead making, photography, etc. 
The house I stayed in.

The class size was perfect for me. I expected there to be a gang of guys but instead there were 3 chicks (including myself) and just one guy. The instructors couldn't have been more thorough, supportive, helpful, professional, talented, or experienced. It was a real treat to learn from such veterans in the field!
The main instructor, John Sheridan, left his business in Cali for 2 weeks to teach 2 classes at Peters Valley. John is the owner of San Francisco Woodshop. He entertained us with stories of the furniture and interior design commissions he's done for the rich and famous in LA including the late Robin Williams who took his own life during my stay at Peters Valley.
The second instructor, who I worked primarily with, is Master Woodworker Jim Whitman. Check out Whitman Workshop to view his amazing work. Jim is the author of a book every furniture designer should own, The Woodworker's Studio Handbook. The instructors were both kind enough to autograph and gift a copy to me! #joy!
I wanted to make something for my man that he'd find useful so I made him a shelving unit/stand for his sneaker collection. It can display his top 3 pair at once and house his accessories on the upper shelve with compartments. It's made of Maple and Walnut woods. The other students made 3 tables and 2 stools. All of the pieces were SOOO original and cool. Considering that we started with a sketch, made a small cardboard mockup of the design and then drew the dimensions to scale on grid paper before cutting the wood, you can understand that it was an arduous process. Sawing, planing, sanding, gluing, nailing and the use of serious heavy-duty machinery lead to 10 hour days for the 4.5 days we were there.
Besides the workshop, the food was pretty decent and the activities were enjoyable, as well. Weekly, there is an art auction held plus a show & tell where the instructors of that week from each of the genres on site give a video presentation of their career's work. They really get the creme de la creme at Peter's Valley. I highly recommend it.
My classmates and instructors with our finished pieces
My stand for footwear
My man has put it to good use

Want to learn more about Peters Valley School of Craft? Visit their website at http://www.petersvalley.org.

Peters Valley School of Craft is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation, founded in 1970 in partnership with the National Park Service to promote and encourage education and excellence in craft. From our humble beginnings as an artist colony to our recognition today as an internationally renowned center of fine craft, our presence in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area defines Peters Valley and the experience for our visitors, resident artists and students. 

Our facilities, nestled amid the fields, forests and streams of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, were once the charming and leafy farm village of Bevans. Through adaptive reuse, these historic buildings now serve as a gathering place for a thriving community of artists and environmentalists, thinkers and changers of the world. The link between the natural and man-made splendor of our environment exemplifies of our commitment to being stewards of the Park.

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