09.07.08: Portland/Northwest Woodworking Studio

The Northwest Woodworking Studio was the second school I was to visit, and I arrived at this rambling, somewhat charmingly shambolic space that the school inhabits in the middle of a children's woodworking class. NWS is the brainchild of Gary Rogowski, who unfortunately I didn't meet, but who built the school from the ground up with his own two hands. As impressive a feat as this is, I wondered about the wisdom of going it alone in any endeavour - I thought it would only be successful if you had good support from people who weren't directly involved, otherwise the risk of burnout from shouldering the whole burden seems too great. 

Anyway, it was an unexpected joy to arrive when I did, as I had never seen children working wood before. The class was taught by Brendan Alvistur, who is the first graduate of the school's nine-month course. I had a great time: some time spent talking with Brendan, who is in a similar situation to myself - just graduated, trying to get set up and start working professionally, etc.; some time spent with the class, joining in with what they were doing. Below is a shot of Brendan and the kids!

Brendan and I shared our concerns about the future, and although we had much in common he seemed to be more relaxed about his prospects than I had been. This may be naivety on his part, but I began to see a pattern emerge - that many of the people I have met started on their paths without flapping their feathers; they just got on with it. It's a cliché I know, but there really is a "can do" attitude here that is refreshing - people don't seem to be naive about the risks, but less intimidated by them. I realised that the negativity of the people I have been taught by and in contact with is contagious, and I am relieved to find that those attitudes are not universal. I am also beginning to see that I am only just emerging from the starting blocks, and I should stop expecting that I can/should/must build Rome in a day, calm down and let things flow from me. After all, the stress I have felt is really my own doing. 

Yet again I feel somewhat honoured by the time that someone (in this case Brendan) has spent with me, as I have not found that I am so easily embraced in Scotland. There is a sense of guardedness that I have not found here - people seem generally more apt to share and give than they do back home, which is a phenomenon I struggle to understand. 


  1. Stuart,

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us - GREAT!!! And welcome to our side of the pond, too.

  2. Great blog! I was wondering if you plan on going up to British Colombia and check out Inside Passage?

  3. It's great that you've got the time and resources to make what promises to be a fun and rewarding trip. Enjoy yourself on our side of the world and welcome. I'm sure you'll make friends and experience things and ideas that will stay with you forever. I'm looking foreward to following your trip via this blog.