Issue Three T.O.C. - Essential Human Work: Reimagining a Legendary School on the Coast of Maine


"Essential Human Work: Reimagining a Legendary School on the Coast of Maine" by: James McConnell and Michael Updegraff featured in Issue Three.

After nearly 40 years of teaching traditional hand skills, chairmaking, and green woodworking, Country Workshops is closing its doors. Started deep in the mountains of North Carolina in 1978 by Drew and Louise Langsner, the school has become an iconic epicenter of handcraft, and countless creative journeys have begun by venturing down the narrow gravel driveway. 

This is not a lament or eulogy to the passing of an era, however. Kenneth Kortemeier and his wife Angela share the passion of the Langsners to teach these skills of "essential human work". Kenneth learned primitive skills from a Cherokee elder in North Carolina, worked as an intern at Country Workshops, apprenticed under legendary Welsh chairmaker John Brown, taught wooden boat building and seamanship, and built furniture and cabinets on commission, but his biggest undertaking lies ahead. The spirit of Country Workshops is being handed on by the Langsners to be replanted in a rural town on the Maine coast. The old Workshop's tools and benches have been transported north to be put back to work in the new Maine Coast Craft School, where the exclusive distribution of several top-quality Swedish toolmakers will continue.

Through interviews and narrative from North Carolina and Maine, we knew we had to share this compelling story. This kind of graceful, thoughtful transition is almost unheard of in the business world today. It clearly reflects the shared philosophy of Drew and Kenneth that asserts there is lasting value in teaching how to create objects that are simple, functional, and beautiful.

- Mike Updegraff

Stay tuned tomorrow for the next article upcoming in M&T Issue Three...