It is with great sadness that I write my post today. Last night I received the news that one of my good friends and fellow woodworking designers had passed away.
Dirk Boelman was not only an incredible designer. He was a much loved and respected friend. From the moment you met him, he was one of those kind of people that made you feel as if you had known him all of your life. Both he and his wife Karen always greeted you with smiles and a warm embrace.
I met Dirk and Karen when I first began working with Creative Woodworks and Crafts magazine – over fifteen years ago. Back then, there were probably four or five main scroll saw shows (or 'picnics' as they called them) in which woodworkers would gather together to share their love of scrolling. These shows were not large. Most of the time there were under 50 tables or booths. We had them in various places across the USA such as Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New Jersey, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. Because of the relatively small size of the gatherings, the atmosphere was much like that of a large family, and we vendors got to know each other very well.
The shows usually lasted over a weekend, with many of us arriving at the designated city sometime on Friday. Soon our "Friday dinners" became part of the show, and were a place where both participants as well as customers could extend our 'visits' an extra day. The shows were busy back then, with the actual show times on Saturday being somewhat chaotic. Dirks booth was always jam packed with people who came to see him – both to purchase patterns and to talk about scroll sawing. No matter how busy he was, he always took the time to listen and visit with people, and share any information he could. Both he and Karen were always the highlight of the show.
I got to know him more in the after hours. When we as vendors would get together Saturday night for our semi-private dinners and visits. I say "semi-private" because so many of the shows' attendees became 'friends' that they were all welcome to join in. Since most of the time, the official show was only on Saturday afternoon, Saturday evening would be a time of celebration either at the hotel lobby or rooms, various local restaurants, or even Joe Diveley's or George Ahler's homes at times. It was like a family reunion – with all the best names from the magazines in attendance, including editors, vendors, pattern designers and customers. It was a chance to really visit and have a good time.
One show in particular comes to mind. At the time I was only involved in scrolling for perhaps a year or two. I was in New Jersey for a large show hosted by the All American Crafts group – the group that publishes Creative Woodworks and Crafts. After the two day show, we were invited to the then editor (George Ahlers') house for a large outdoor bar-b-que. he lived in a beautiful, wooded area and had a large property. Our work colleague Robert Becker was involved in a band and played for the party. I spent most of the night sitting on the hill with Karen and Dirk talking. We talked about music, general things, and of course scroll sawing. I was still so new to the industry and I had so much respect and admiration for Dirk, as he was regarded as one of the best designers around. He talked very freely about how he began designing and how much he loved it. He said that he used to go to an office for work every day and how much he hated that. That his dream was to just draw and design.
Dirk drew all his patterns by hand. This alone shocked me because his drawings were so exacting and precise, you would have thought he HAD to have done them on a computer. He said he didn't like the computer much, and I don't really know how much he came around to using it. We had somewhat lost touch since I came here to Canada and since there are no longer many shows. But there were many things that I remember talking to him about which stuck to me to this day.
Dirk expressed to me the importance of doing what you love to do. "If you want to do something, you need to work for it." he had told me. He said that he never regretting giving up his office job to make patterns. Even though it was many times more hours or harder work, it was what he loved and he was happy. I also learned from him that no matter how busy you are, there is always time for kindness. Both Dirk and Karen always took the time to stop and listen to all who wanted to talk to them. They always greeted others with a smile and looked at others and listened. They genuinely cared about their customers and friends.
While I look back at these times with sadness in my heart, I also find myself smiling. I remember the big bear hugs that Dirk would give me – usually we were both soaking wet because it was so hot – and I remember the kind, gentle and oh so gifted friend that I had in him.
I know I am only one of the many thousands of people whose heart was touched by knowing him. He loved his family, scrolling and he truly loved people. He was a great artist and teacher, and he will live on through not only his teachings of woodworking and scrolling, but also of love, compassion and kindness. He was not only a friend, but a truly giving and kind man.
The woodworking community will never be the same.
I will miss him very much.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"