Better For It

As Mike and I discussed in our most recent podcast episode, this past weekend, we hosted a handful of M&T Apprenticeship alum in our rural Maine woodshop for our first annual “summit” gathering. We had students (and their spouses and children) travel from all around the US to discuss craftsmanship, make shavings, and feast together. It was a beautiful thing.

The world being what it is, we haven’t hosted a gathering for 3 years (our Issue Seven packing party was the last). Once the covid panic calmed down, we were already well underway with our house project and couldn’t take on any more commitments. Needless to say, we had been looking forward to this summit for quite some time. We invited the folks from our first four terms and ended up getting to know such a broad mix of folks. Just like at our packing parties. We had a homeschooling Texan family, a Chinese woodworker currently living in the US, a motorcycling folk musician, woodworkers from the South, from the Midwest, on and on. It was a wonderfully eclectic group. It is common today to define “community” as a self-selected group of people exactly like me in every way. But this definition is only to our impoverishment. The more we open ourselves to others, the more we are likely to grow and flourish. Whether it was demonstrating workholding strategies, discussing societal implications of the guild systems, debating the value of robotic manufacture, or simply sharing songs around the campfire, I believe we all walked away from those two days better for it.

I am so grateful to everyone who traveled all the way up to our corner of the country. We’re especially thankful to our Apprenticeship TA Joaquim Camillo, who came up early to help out around the shop and on the House By Hand project. Joaquim is a talented woodworker and a true gentleman. We hadn’t got the opportunity to meet him face to face until this past weekend and our time working alongside him makes us wish we could do this kind of thing more often.

This event also marked the opening of a new chapter in M&T. As providence would have it, in a few weeks, the Cox family will be moving out of state to attend to family needs. Mike C has not only diligently managed the Apprenticeship program for us the past year, but he turned our shipping “department” from makeshift to a well-oiled machine – the “ship show,” he calls it. With his move, we are losing a valuable member of the M&T team, but we send him along with our prayers and sincerest benedictions. Fortunately, Grace will be able to continue in her customer service and administrative capacities remotely, and for that we are deeply grateful. Grace has become the backbone of this operation, and Mike and I couldn’t keep this thing running without her.

So, this past weekend brings a mix of emotions for us all. It is so sweet to host a gathering of such awesome people again. It’s a blessing to share craft (wood, music, and food). But it’s sad to close one chapter and see friends move away. And yet, seeing how this all has unfolded, I cannot help but feel hopeful anticipation for the next iteration of M&T. We’ve been preparing for this moment over the past few months and are confident that the business will be stronger for having gone through it all.

Thank you, friends, for joining us those two days. Thank you, Joaquim, for lending a hand. Thank you, Mike C, for your dedication and expertise not only in shipping and MTAP admin, but also your pulled pork mastery. And thank you, Grace C and Mike U, for your commitment to shaping this next chapter of M&T. If it’s anything like the previous ones, it’s going to be a blast.



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