It is early on Sunday morning after two weeks of time at The North Bennet Street School (NBSS) in Boston. I am enrolled in the two year full time program in Cabinet and Furniture Making (CFM) and will be posting from time to time about my journey, impressions, and progress.
I will begin with the most important impression…I am loving it and have absolutely no regrets about my decision to attend the school. I am learning something new each and every day, and that is my overarching goal. The days are long and at the end of the day I am dog tired, but that is by choice, and it is a “good tired”. I am up at 4:30 or so most mornings and out the door at 5:15 so that I have no issue getting a spot on the 6:00 am bus (the 6:30 also works, as long as there are no major traffic issues but I am more comfortable getting places early). The bus usually pulls into Haymarket Square in Boston right baround 7:00 and it is a beautiful 10 minute walk to the school. The process reverses itself when I leave, generally around 5 pm or so, and head to South Station ( a solid 20 minute walk) to make the 6:00 pm bus, which lets me arrive back at the house by 7:15 or so…. Just about 14 hours after walking out the door.
But it is all good! The day is so rich….from walking through the historic North End and waterfront areas of Boston, to working in the time capsule that is The North Bennet Street School, there is so much to observe and try to retain in memory. I never had a question about the quality of training at NBSS… I know so many who have attended the school, and I see the quality of their work and the way they talk of their time there. But, I am an older student, and I did have some trepidation about how I would fit in… Not major concerns, but still, you never know, and it is only natural to wonder.
It has been amazing! There are 9 of us that began the semester together (there are a total of four semesters, with new students beginning each semester) and a range of ages from early 60′s to early 20′s, and at 57 that means, surprisingly, that I am not the oldest. Our group is made up of 7 men and two women, and a range of woodworking experience. But, aside from some very good-natured banter, the subjects of age, gender, and experience are never an issue. It is a very collaborative group with high energy and strong support for each other! We will be working side by side for two years and this is going to work out great!
Not only do we have good chemistry within our group which currently resides in the room affectionately referred to as “the incubator”, there is strong support from all of the people in the CFM program. Students in their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th semesters regularly stop by to say hello, ask how we are doing, and see if we need anything. And when we step out of the “incubator” into the lower bench room, upper bench room, or machine room, (which I do from time to time for inspiration and motivation) we are welcomed. There was a CFM meet and greet that was held in the upper bench room, where everybody introduced themselves and that was a great way to welcome us to the program. And Friday night, the school had organized their annual “night of bad bowling” where students, and some alumni, from all of the programs got to meet and socialize. Was a fun event and I am glad I went and meet some of the people from the other programs, as during the moving/transition phase of the school, not all the programs are housed in the same building.
People familiar with the CFM program at NBSS know that the basic program has had very little change over the years and that the schools roots are based on a Sloyd system of education. So we all begin in CFM with the very basics and will continue to build on these skills… So, weeks one and two consist of drafting…a lot of drafting, and some basic tool tuneup and sharpening skills. Lectures take place around the benches, and most of the work is self paced. Instructors (there are 4 in CFM) are available, but don’t hover around. If you need them or have questions, it is up to you to seek them out and speak up! And they will follow-up and you will get your answer. They spend their time drifting among the various rooms and working with the 40 or so students in the program and I am learning something new every day, and the days go by too quickly. The official day runs from 8 until 3, but we can stay later as long as the school is open ( until 5:30 or so, and later on nights when they are having workshops ) so several of us are there until after 5 every day.
So to summarize my early impressions of the school, its staff, and students… It is a challenging, fun, collaborative atmosphere, rich in history and tradition. There is an amazing amount of talent and knowledge in the instructors and the students and all are willing to share what they know. It is a welcoming and friendly community and I am proud to be a part of it.
Enough for now…more later!