Every year my beautiful wife, Debra, takes me to school to present a talk to her reading classes at Alvarado Junior High. This talk began, in 2004, with me telling the kids all about being a graphic artist and how important reading is in that job. Since I began doing this I have stopped being a graphic artist and started being a woodworker. So, last year, I changed the talk, splitting the time between one job and the other.
Since last year my business started taking off, so this year I limited the graphic artist portion of the talk to about 10 or 12 minutes, spending the rest of the time talking about making sawdust. And I even included a video slideshow I made for Design Style Guide, the team I’m on which serves to promote over 900 artists and designers worldwide to interior designers looking for something unique with which to decorate a project. I think it went well.
I conducted this little talk by introducing the kids to the world of the graphic artist. I told them about designing logos, dealing with clients, typesetting documents, brochures and magazines. I showed them several slides detailing some of my actual jobs. And after about 15 minutes or so I was ready to move on to the next chapter in my life as a self-employed man-about-town.
The kids were interested in both jobs, but I think I grabbed them with the woodworking more than graphic arts. Of course, this probably happened because I like it better, too.
I showed them my shop, my power tools, the bench I designed and built myself. I showed them several examples of the candle holders and bookends, bookcases and wine rests that I have built in the past couple of years. I showed them the pair of cabinets I built for Clay Roberts, the art teacher at the Junior High School. And I saw their eyes light up as they became more and more interested, sometimes in spite of themselves.
After we went through all the slides I played the video slide show I produced for Design Style Guide a couple of months ago. That really caught their attention. They saw how different people doing completely different jobs could work together to reach a common goal. And the boys got to whistle at Martine Petra, a photographer in DSG who is frequently the model in her own photographs.
And after the video they got to pass around some samples of my work. I let them handle several candle holders made of different kinds of wood, along with some samples of wood that were unfinished so they could see the difference which, in many cases, is dramatic. They saw cherry, pine, red heart, and cedar in the finished state, and cherry and curly maple unfinished.
In years past I know I have inspired a couple of kids to pursue art as a career. One in particular is planning to go to art school after graduation and then go to work for his uncle, who is also a very talented graphic artist working in Dallas. I’d love to find out one or two of these kids decided to make sawdust for a living after college.
Some of these kids might be inspired to become woodworkers later in life. Many of them can take wood shop as an elective when they get to Alvarado High School. Mr. Ransom is a wonderful teacher, as my son has learned over the last two years. He is also able to inspire kids to do more than they thought they could do.
Next year I will cut the graphic art portion of the talk back a bit more because I will have so much more to tell them about woodworking. The classes are 45 – 50 minutes long, so there’s very little wiggle room. When the kids start asking questions I frequently get rushed toward the end. I’ll fix that problem by talking more about this job I love so much. And next year will be even more successful.
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P.S. The music in the video was written and performed by me. It’s called “Ma Ma,” and was written for my grandmother, Rupie Lee Johnson, who just celebrated her 98th birthday last month.
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