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JOEL Joel's Blog

Peter Follansbee - When I Grow Up

06/04/2010 Part 2 of a Series

I sent the following questions to some of the movers and shakers in the woodworking industry:

1 - When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up? Do you remember what attracted you to your goals?
2 - How did your goals as a kid translate - if they did - into what you are doing professionally now?

I think the answers I got were really instructive and maybe helpful for those we know who are pursuing a dream. Let's let the people speak for themselves. Here is the note I got from craftsman Peter Follansbee. Peter is one of the pioneers in the re-examination of pre-industrial woodworking crafts and specializes in seventeenth-century joined furniture; green wood, hand tools. The previous entry in this series is by Ron Hock.

Peter Follansbee -
1-From early on, I was headed towards being an artist. The high school I went to in the mid-70s tailored its curriculum for students aiming to get into art school and that was the path I was on. I did attend the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston for 1 year & 1 week. Looking back from 30 years on, I see now that what I wanted as an artist is what I got as a woodworker. I couldn't verbalize it then, but I wanted an apprenticeship in the craft of a painter - I wanted to learn glazes, color-mixing, developing a composition and then layering the paint to produce something luminous. At that time, art school where I was leaned more towards the way-out approach.

Dropped out in 1977, and in 1978 I read John (now Jennie) Alexander's book Make a Chair from a Tree.... after inheriting some power tools. I learned how to generally worry a chair out of a log. Met Alexander & Drew Langsner in 1980. For a while, I tried to learn both crafts, wood & "art" - but by 1982 I gave up painting so I could focus on one thing - woodworking. I sometimes take up sketching now & again, that's the part I miss.

2 - Like I said, I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be an artist of a
long-gone time; using techniques not as common now as they once were. It parallels what I have done in my furniture studies, I think.

By the late 1980s I was en route to learning more about history than I ever imagined. My art history background has helped, in studying tool history, etc. through paintings, engravings, etc. Plus I had been in & out of museums since about the 10th grade; I'm often surprised at the people who never go to museums. They miss something essential.

A picture? Ahhh, that's pre-beard - how would they know it's me? Even my wife has to guess...

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06/06/2010 Ron Westlake
I had an opportunity to attended a class taught by Peter at Drew Lagsner place last summer. Its one of the best woodworking classes I've hand the luck to get into. I got a lot more out of the class than just making a box. It changed a few way I look at things enough so I quite my job soI could go back to school full time. Wish I could apprentice with him
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