This month, we profile our talented instructor and woodworker Matthew Straughn-Morse. We asked him about his history as a woodworker, his teaching & making philosophy, and his aspirations for the future.
Matthew is teaching some great courses this Spring and Summer, and we are fortunate to have him!
1. How did you become a woodworker?
I have been interested in woodworking since childhood, but never thought it would be a career until after college. I believe that the start was an equal blend of audacity (I didn't really know what I was getting into) stubbornness (it was, and still is, a steep learning curve), and fortuitous timing and circumstance.
2. Why did you choose to work at the School?
The Port Townsend School of Woodworking really embodies the approach to learning woodworking that resonates with me. I believe that woodworkers can really be craftspeople, artists, and thinkers. The skills we teach at the school are not necessarily commonplace, but are achievable by most students given the desire to learn. The nature of those skills are fundamental to many crafts, but are often overlooked in the conventional or contemporary approach to woodworking.
3. What is your philosophy for supporting students and what do you hope they achieve?
I would like to be better at letting students make (non-injurious) mistakes, however, I would summarize my philosophy as complete transparency, and openness. I would hope that most go on to use the skills they acquire in the field of woodwork, but I would be as satisfied if they leave feeling like the time spent at the school was worthwhile.
4. What have have you learned from other faculty? The students?
The list of things I have learned from the faculty is far too long to enumerate here. Suffice to say that I learn new things daily working with Abel and Jim, and there is not one person on staff from whom I have yet to learn something. Students also offer many new views and insights, most have spent a good deal of time thinking about craft or tools or wood.
5. What do you find most rewarding about teaching? About being a woodworker?
I really enjoy seeing someone begin to understand a new concept, selfishly, I think, because I take it to mean I am communicating clearly and teaching well! I love to make things, particularly from wood. I love that the wood suggests the process, dictates the construction, and informs the appearance. Makes it kinda easy, I just have to show up.
6. What are your hopes/aspirations for your teaching practice or your own woodworking?
I would truly like to find a comfortable balance between teaching and making. I absolutely need time to grow, and thrive in my own as a woodworker, but I also feel a need to convey what I know to new woodworkers, in the hope that we, as a culture, don't lose our woodworking heritage.