In early August, I was offered the position of Wood Studio Manager in downtown Seattle at Pratt Fine Arts Center. It was easy to say YES! to Pratt: Pratt is an awesome place. The three buildings on the Pratt campus contain a state of the art wood studio, a stone sculpture yard, a warm glass studio, a glass blowing hot shop, a bronze foundry, a blacksmithing studio (with a new power hammer!!), a welding and fabrication studio, jewelry and small metal studios, a printmaking studio, antique letter presses, a screen printing studio, drawing and painting studios and tons more. It is the “only facility in the northwest where absolute beginners and established artists can work and learn side by side. Pratt welcomes over 3,500 students and 300 working artists annually to a dynamic creative community. In total, Pratt classes, exhibitions, lectures and programs touch more than 20,000 people annually. Many established local, regional, and nationally known artists began their professional careers in our studios. After nearly 40 years of serving our community, Pratt continues to fulfill its founders’ vision of being The Place to Make Art.” –from Pratt.org
Another thing that caught my attention were all the incredibly talented women around campus; of the seven studio managers at Pratt, six are women. My new job as Wood Studio Manager at Pratt affords me many opportunities, not the least of which is being constantly surrounded by talented artists in many disciplines. Opportunities for collaborations and projects of mixed media abound. Pratt’s campus is located in the central district of Seattle, easy walking distance from the international district, so frequently during lunchtime I can sneak away, speak some Chinese, and eat some of my very favorite foods. I get to bring Abbey, our 1 year old puppy to work with me. I have lots of freedom to develop the wood shop and our wood education program. But most importantly, I get to be a part of an incredible, important, influential piece of the Seattle community.
The wood studio itself is really well equipped with power tools, a 20” Laguna bandsaw set up for re-sawing, two 14” Laguna bandsaws, several Jet drill presses and a floor standing mortiser, an 8” Powermatic Jointer, a 15” Powermatic power planer with helical head, A floor standing Grizzly oscillating spindle sander, a Grizzly floor standing belt sander, two Sawstops, a Powermatic lathe, 4 Delta lathes, 1 Jet lathe, a 20 foot Dewalt Sliding Chopsaw station, an Incra Router Table, lots of storage space, 6 workbenches, and a state of the art Oneida Dust Collection system. I’m currently working on retrofitting all the benches to be more handtool accessible as well as equipping the studio with a few working sets of handtools to foster a growth in our handtool education program.
We have fantastic teachers in our wood program, and I’m currently in the process of hiring even more as I get our winter schedule set up. In January I hope to be offering classes in spoon carving, relief carving, handtool woodworking basics, bowl turning, advanced turning, beginner and intermediate woodworking classes, chainsaw basics, Pacific Northwest style carving, geometric lath art, wooden puppetry, and kicking off our kids program as well.
Pratt is a far longer commute and requires a lot more working hours than my office job used to. However, Pratt also brings all the “odds and ends” I was doing before to string together a living full circle. Between my work at Pratt, my writing for various publications and my travel with Lie-Nilesen, I now live and breathe sawdust all day, every day, and I love every minute of it.
As I said, I used to think I was busy. Now I wonder how I used to spend all the free time I must have had. I’ve forgotten what a good night’s sleep and free time feels like. But that is not a complaint; however, it’s a huge HALLELUJIA! I have been abundantly blessed far beyond what I deserve and I get to do things I love from the moment I wake up until the moment I fall asleep, every single day.
Mornings start at 5:30am with a quick cup of coffee on the way out to the barn. The animals get fed, watered, given fresh hay and the goat gets milked. Abbey gets plenty of playtime chasing her new favorite playmate, the baby alpaca around the yard while I’m doing chores. Adam and I try to be on the road into downtown Seattle by 6:45am. He gets dropped off at Amazon and Abbey and I head on into the studio at Pratt. I’m usually home by 4:30 or 5 and back to work on the farm, checking the animals, watering plants, and trying to get a few little projects done before Adam gets off the bus at home. The project I’ve been trying to chip a little away at each day the last few weeks has been converting the laundry room in our house into a little handtool woodworking studio. Now that I have access to all the machines at Pratt, paired with the fact that the leakin the roof in my outdoor wood shop at home has worsened and we don’t yet have the time or money to fix it, a postage-stamp-sized handtool workshop inside the house seems like the best option for the time being. Fridays I spend writing, and I travel every other weekend or so.
Lest you be mislead, thinking my life is perfect, I will say that there are a lot of hard days- failed projects, farm animals that have been overcome by predators, marital fights, mountains of poop to shovel, the goat kicks over the just-filled milk pail, and the occasional “I’m so tired and overwhelmed and I have to fix the fence and it’s dark and I don’t know how I’m going to finish this tonight” tears. There is never enough time for everything that needs to be done in a day. But, I’m getting better at making lists, prioritizing them, and, every day, allowing myself some time to sit back, relax, count my blessings, and forget about the lists for a few minutes. I get to go to work and do a job I love and come home at night and hang out with my best friend on the farm we are working hard to turn into the place of our dreams.