I am extraordinarily lucky to have the job I do today, and to do work that I love. It is almost entirely due to Christopher Schwarz.
In the summer of 2005, I notified my supervisor that I was leaving my Creative Services job after seven years (wherein my duties included writing marketing materials for Popular Woodworking Magazine and the WoodWorker’s Book Club) to return to school full time in pursuit of a teaching career in higher education.
About a week later, Christopher Schwarz and Steve Shanesy asked if I was interested in becoming the managing editor for Popular Woodworking Magazine. Sure – why not. So my resignation turned into a department transfer. I wasn’t committed to staying long-term; we worked it out so I could take the necessary coursework for a Ph.D. I planned to leave after I finished my dissertation (it was a four-year plan).
Fast forward to February 2009. I took (and passed – whew!) my candidacy exams (already behind on that four-year plan) after taking almost all of my 2008 vacation in December, and my 2009 vacation in January and early February. If Chris hadn’t covered my essential duties during those months, that would simply not have been possible. For that, he has my eternal gratitude. (I know exactly how much it sucks to work two full-time jobs while getting paid for only one.)
Fast forward to now. Little did I know in 2005 that I’d fall in love with making big sticks of wood into smaller sticks of wood then sticking them back together. And while I’ve had the good fortune to learn in person from many incredibly gifted woodworkers, it was Chris’ love for the craft that inspired me most to keep learning, to keep trying new things and to become proficient (most of the time, anyway) at the subversive and rewarding act of making things instead of buying them (read “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” (Lost Art Press) for more on that). Or maybe I just respond well to his squirrel jokes. (Time-limited on writing a dissertation, I resigned my candidacy in 2015. While I miss talking about and teaching Shakespeare, I’d miss woodworking and being around woodworkers full time a lot more. So much for plans!)
Chris is an excellent teacher of woodworking, editing, writing, life and appreciation for craft beer; he is my éminence grise, and my friend. Yep – I’m extraordinarily lucky.
But he hates this kind of thing…so he might not ever talk to me again.
Note: January is National Mentoring Month; the above is in response to Joshua Klein’s request to post about our woodworking mentors; check out more at Instagram under the hashtag #woodworkingmentors.