What’s Happening to Woodworking ?

I’m trying to figure out what has happened to interest in woodworking. It struck me today while at the Mandarin Art Festival, a regular Easter visit for us. As I walked around I saw only two booths that had any wood art on display. Both were here last year, with one being a segmented turner;

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and the other being a wooden toy maker.

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There had been several more artists with wood in the past, so I wondered what was happening that there were only two this year.

I’ve talked to woodturning demonstrators that commiserate about the old days when they would head with their station wagon full of their work to an art show like this and sell out. I know that members of my woodturning club all have gray hair and that’s also pretty much true of our national association, the AAW, but what’s diminishing the interest in woodworking.

It then dawned on me that I’m seeing this same phenomenon happening at my local Barnes & Noble store. My wife and I go to their cafe for coffee a number of times a week and I would always grab a woodworking magazine off the rack to peruse while I had my mocha latte. Now all the rack space woodworking used to have has been taken over by “adult coloring books”.

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Today there were only six woodworking magazines on the rack along with a dozen coloring books. I also remember the time when there were several shelves on woodworking books and B&N.

I headed over to take a look and realized that I could hardly find any. There were only nine books scatted amongst the other craft books.

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I really don’t understand it. Is it just that, and this is a sexist thing to say, boys nowadays are more interested in video games and disposable possessions that building things? I’m singling out boys here because I see lots of girls very interested in knitting and crochet. Is it because of the fact that industrial arts has been virtually removed from all our schools? Is it the cost and space required to do good woodworking that’s at fault?

Maybe it’s all of these, but the changes in Barnes and Noble and the art fairs seem to have reached critical levels over just the last couple of years. I think it stems from the fact that kid’s don’t really know that they can make things rather than buy them. Once they get turned on to the fact they can make things, they seem genuinely delighted with that ability. The boys we teach at Safe Harbor each Friday and in the midst of turning a new chess set for the home and they’re all making Native American style flutes and have been truly amazed when they blow in one end and a beautiful sound comes out from the other.

Maybe we can save woodworking and other crafts just by letting young people know they can make things on their own and there are plenty of “mature” folks around that can teach them. As I have learned from the John C. Campbell Folkschool

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