I've been searching for some sort of a woodworking community here in Las Vegas for almost five years. Sure, there are some great woodworkers I've met, like John and Larry. But they're few and far between, and frustrated by the lack of interest shown in their work.
I'm not talking about the current economic climate, where many artisans have noticed declining sales. Or gone out of business. I'm saying that even when the building boom was happening here, well.... people just sometimes think that buying a bedroom set at Costco is a great deal. Or getting that free cabinet with the stereo you buy is infinitely better than a hand built unit.
I've approached a few galleries here in town, about placing some of my pieces on display, only to be told that "furniture isn't art!" I'm telling you, it makes me want to beat my head against a wall.
But I have a belief that educating people about the benefits of custom built furniture is the best way to reverse that "Costco" or "Walmart" mentality. And educating, to me, means teaching people how to tell if furniture is well made, or if it's crap. And frankly, unless you're looking at pieces at some of the better known furniture showrooms, you're mostly seeing crap out there.
I've often blogged about the fact that I used to teach woodworking for the University of Akron.
When I moved to Las Vegas, I discovered a vacuum in the woodworking community here. When I explored the territory, I either found cabinet shops making high end pieces for a ka-jillion dollars, or hobbyists making clocks, with poker chips as numbers. Or better yet - dice clocks.
I know that over the years, there have been some woodworking groups here in town, but they've basically fallen apart. I don't think it's due to lack of interest, but rather, the fact that the person running the group had a their own agenda, and wasn't really about supporting amateur woodworking.
Many artists here are hungry for a sense of community; consider me part of that group.
So about my cliff jumping - I'm actively exploring my vision of a woodworking community here in Las Vegas. It's not going to be easy, nothing worthwhile ever is. In fact, a friend of mine just said to me - unless you feel like throwing up, you aren't pushing yourself hard enough.
I've set up an organizational meeting at a local library, and am inviting anyone interested in woodworking to attend. The library has been kind enough to add me to their schedule here.
What are my goals? How much time do you have?
A woodworking co-op has often fascinated me. I'd love to have a place for people to learn to work together,
to share techniques and plans,
to give suggestions about where to buy materials locally,
and to exhibit our work.
Is this too ambitious? I don't think so.
I've been getting many e-mails, asking if I'll give private one-on-one and small group lessons here, so I know there is an interest.
I think it's a combination of a couple of things - people are tired of hiring workers to do small repairs around the house, when they know they can do a better job, if they just had access to tools and a little training. Custom work can be really expensive!
But more importantly, most people don't simply want to buy a tablesaw and try to learn how to use it without proper supervision. Tools are not only dangerous, but they're expensive!
I don't know if starting a woodworking community will work, I have no idea, but I'm willing to give it a shot. If anyone is interested in taking up woodworking, please join me at the Centennial Hills Library, at 6711 N. Buffalo Dr., up in the Northwest on February 12 at 7 PM for an introductory meeting.
If there is enough interest shown, I will willingly get this party started.