Woodworking in America 2011 has come and gone and I’ve started my inevitable downward spiral of despair. Not because of the quality of the event, it fills a woodworking void like nothing else, but instead because of the loss the comradery the conference brings to me. How’s that? Comradery at WIA? Yes!
Of all the things I’ve experienced in the past four years, it’s that sense of belonging, that sense of being surrounded by people who really understand and get why I’m so passionate about woodworking. BECAUSE THEY ARE TOO!
If anything, I’ve found the conference for me has become more about THAT comradery and reunion with friends than the classes themselves. If you attended this year or in the past, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Just like when I was a freshman in college I scheduled all my classes and my plans around the notion that it’s all about the lectures. I knew where I had to be first thing in the morning and how much time to allow myself for breakfast and maybe a nice carmel macchiato at the starbucks attached to the conference center.
Friday morning’s plans included time to get registered, because I’d be arriving too late Thursday night. And on Thursday night, maybe I’d have a beer or two with some of my blogger friends, but we wouldn’t stay out late because after all we had classes first thing in the morning and they probably had multi-colored highlighted schedules just like mine.
And this would go on for the entire weekend. I planned that we’d high-five in the hallways, maybe oh and ah at the tools in the marketplace and gossip about something funny or enlightening one of the presenters said in class. All academic with maybe a whimsy of hilarity from time to time.
(Insert sound of needle scratching across a record) Yeah almost none of that happened! Here’s the truth of the weekend. Woodworking in America is the place I go to meet up with friends I’ve made online and at previous WIAs. It’s loud, it’s boisterous and above all it’s one of the best times of my life.
The fact I get to stand around with fellow woodworkers who know the lingo, understand why I get that little twinkle in my eye as I talk about the time I achieved the perfect sharp edge on a chisel. People who can’t wait to sit in a class and hear about why this style of furniture came to be vs another style or why a tool chest bests a tool cabinet.
That sense of comradery and understanding makes the long journey worth it every year. But with that euphoric high, comes a devastating low. On that last day when we shake hands, come in for those man hugs and have to say good-bye. We all stand there putting on a brave face and pretend like things will go back to normal when we get home.
As a seasoned veteran of the WIA I can tell you this, you’re never the same. New friendships forged in the fires of the marketplace, the wins and loses of the hand tool olympics or learning that one golden nugget in the lectures from the likes of Saint Roy or Graham Blackburn or who ever inspired you, will stick with you for days, weeks and months to come.
A piece of advice for my fellow WIA 2011 attendees, embrace these first few days of mourning. It’ll make returning next year unlike any homecoming you’ve ever experienced.
Even if it’s only for a day in the marketplace you’ll spot one of your new friends in the aisle, you’ll take a few minutes to get caught up and share stories of what you’ve been building since the last time you talked, and in no time it’ll be like you never left. Trust me, I know!
I’ll be sharing more of my experiences on shows coming soon, but in the mean time I invite you to visit my blogging friends who have already started to share their own. Enjoy!
Popular Woodworking Editors’ Blog
Logan Cabinet Shoppe
Mark Giles’ Woodworking Adventures
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