Since her first woodworking class in Grade 9 last year, Rachel has been developing a true love of wood and all the amazing things it can do. Her first project was a little pine side table with a tiled top arranged to look like Super Mario--the old 8-bit version. This year, as soon as she walked into class, her teacher assigned her and her friend Daryja the task of designing and building a project to represent their high school in the Wood Objects show, a component of the Ottawa Woodworking Show that comes to town every November.
They got on it right away, designing a shelf in two halves. When placed back-to-back, the shelves would lean up against one another, supporting the weight of their load. It was an innovative idea, and of course Rachel wasn't content to just slap a few boards together and call it a day. Instead, she decided that each side should be the mirror opposite of the other, with alternating stripes of basswood and butternut (the only two decent boards in the school's inventory, she said), which she would finish carefully so that they looked like a single solid surface.
At this point, I was just kind of nodding along, much as I do when Adrian tries to explain his work as the programmer on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Endangered Species: I know it's sophisticated and cool, and I know I don't fully understand it, but if they say it'll work, that's okay by me.
Anyway, Rachel and Daryja worked like fiends to get their shelf built in time to enter the show; and they were ecstatic when they got the email from the jury saying it had been accepted into the competition.
This is the shelf in its unfinished state.
But it does show the alternating stripes of wood,
and gives the general idea of the design.
Yesterday was their big day: the jury, consisting of custom furniture builder Michael Fortune, gallery owner Megan Lafreniere, and craftsperson/editor of Canadian Woodworking Vic Tesolin, judged all the pieces in the morning, and when the show opened at 1 p.m., the decisions had all been made.
Verdict: the Philosoper's Bookshelf by Rachel and Daryja took first prize in the Youth category. But there was another sign up next to the shelf when I got there -- "Jury Award." Apparently the jury members had been so impressed by the overall design and execution of the shelf that they'd chosen it as their show favourite.
But wait! There's more!
Michael Fortune had been so impressed by the girls' work that he'd made an offer on the spot: a week's internship at his studio in Lakefield, near Peterborough. I don't know if I can describe what an honour this is: the guy is so well known that even I had heard of him. Some of his pieces are in museums; others are in private collections.
Rachel's reaction to all this? She seemed pretty nonchalant, for a kid who'd just been singled out by a premier furniture maker and offered the chance of a lifetime. It wasn't until I explained to her that "Jury Award" meant that their little shelf had been judged against all the other pieces, including those by professional craftspeople, that she kind of went, "Whoa. That's...kind of amazing."
Well, yeah. Just a little.
(I don't have pics of the shelf in its finished state, but believe me, I'll be posting them very very soon.)