Woodcraft Supports AAW Programs for Youth and the Visually Challenged

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AAW Youth Program participants watch and listen as instructor Bonnie Klein explains woodturning on the lathe. (Photo by Andi Wolfe)

The 2018 American Association of Woodturners (AAW) Symposium held in Portland, Oregon, in June continued to offer the 10- to 18-year-old generation and the visually challenged opportunities to learn woodturning, with support from a dozen woodworking sponsors, including Woodcraft.

The 26 young people registered for the Youth Program could choose from a variety of small projects such as a Christmas ornament, pen, and magic wand in workshops taught by experienced turners Kip Christiansen, Paul Carter, Bonnie Klein, Nick Cook and Kailee Bosch. Turning pieces created by the youth were displayed in the youth turning area and in the AAW Instant Gallery.

Fifteen of the young turners went home with complete turning packages consisting of a mini lathe with stand, face shield, turning chuck, turning tools, and a safety drive. Names of youth who participated in at least one turning rotation were entered in a drawing for the packages, symposium chair Jeff Brockett said.

Winners are Aiden Baltzell, Benjamin Blevens-Silbernagel, Marina Broach, Ryan Debo, Max Gehring, Kacy Hawkins, Mitchel Hodgkin, Aengus and Petra Kennedy, Keonni Reeves, Deirdre Replinger, Nick and Troy Rich, Dawson Roos, Jared Van Hoof, Maddie Welin, Noah Biehler, who took the related equipment only, and Sydney Julier, who received the lathe that Biehler did not take.

Woodcraft contributed face shields for each of the 15 packages, as well as for 10 other packages awarded in a grant program and 1 package given to the Lighthouse for the Blind program that is established each year in the symposium host city.

Nurturing the Woodturning Heritage

“Thank you for providing all of the materials we needed to have a great time and learn tons of new stuff.”

“Thank you for allowing me to follow in my grandpa’s and great-grandpa’s footsteps.”

These comments by two of the youth who participated this year reflect an interest that the national woodturning organization has been promoting since 2005.  “It is our purpose to expose young people to the art and craft of woodturning in hopes that we can get them interested at an early age and see them develop,” Brockett said.

Over the past 14 years, Brockett said 653 young people have participated in the symposium workshops. Instructor Kailee Bosch is one of the program’s success stories.  

Kailee Bosch, a former AAW Youth Program participant, returned as an instructor at the 2017 symposium in Kansas City, Missouri, where Andi Wolfe took this photo. Kailee was also an instructor at the 2018 symposium.

“My dad is a woodturner, so I had been attending the AAW symposiums basically since I was born,” Bosch said. “I started woodturning when I was 6 or 7 and basically waited patiently until I turned 10 to be able to participate in the youth classes. I participated in the youth program for 6 years.”

After a two-year break, Bosch returned in 2017, but this time as an instructor.

“There were a couple of things that led to me being an instructor,” Bosch explained. “For one, I feel like woodturning has an excessive number of older people that are interested in it, not necessarily younger people like myself and students. So I wanted to share my passion for woodturning with other young turners. I also am interested in teaching and demoing at some point to others, not just kids, so I thought that teaching in the youth room would be a great place to start.” 

Educational Grants

The Educational Opportunity Grant program is available to selected applicants for woodturning education, and applicants need not be members of AAW. Youth Program Chair Larry Miller said 10 tool packages went to three schools, a woodturning chapter and an individual, all to support woodturning for youth.

Five of the 10 packages went to Olympia High School in Olympia, Washington, to replace aging equipment in the woodshop. Miller said the local Woodturners of Olympia started working with the woodshop instructors five years ago to encourage interest in woodturning and to help improve the shop equipment.

“Through our club’s partnership, hundreds of volunteer hours from club members, and considerable fundraising activities, woodshop has become one of the more sought after classes, going from 2 periods to 3 periods three years ago and then to 4 periods two years ago, serving 100-125 kids,” Miller said.

Also of note, Miller said, is the increase in special needs kids – those with autism, ADD, ADHD and other developmental challenges – which last year constituted about 40% of the total participants. Students have won many accolades regarding the items they’ve made on the lathe, and the program continues to grow stronger each year. 

Serving the Visually Impaired

Andi Sullivan, left, helps Joni, a blind woman, learn woodturning in the first Lighthouse for the Blind program in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Carl Brown).

Andi Sullivan and her team of volunteers taught the Lighthouse for the Blind turning session at the symposium, which was the kickoff for the woodturning program established at Oral Hull Park recreational facility for the blind outside Portland. Twenty-three adults, most of them visually impaired but a few with other physical challenges, were able to make a pen to take home.

“When you have challenges or disabilities, the world becomes a lot smaller. Woodturning opens it up,” Andi said.  “You come out with a pen or a key ring. It gives you confidence. It empowers you. You think, ‘If I can do this, I do something else too.’”

Sullivan begins planning for the symposium program a year in advance, identifying a local blind program or school that serves the visually impaired to set up a turning program that will remain after AAW members have gone home. One of the turning packages is given to the local program after the symposium.

Although visually impaired herself, Sullivan pursued her interest in woodturning, working persistently through many obstacles to learn the craft. At the 2013 AAW symposium she chaired a panel discussion, which resulted in a partnership with the local Lighthouse of Tampa, Florida, to teach woodturning to the blind. The program’s success led Sullivan to work with the AAW to set up similar programs in symposium host cities – Tampa, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Kansas City, Missouri, and Portland so far.

To learn more about Sullivan and her work, click here to see “Andi Sullivan – Opening Up the World of Woodturning to the Blind & Disabled” on woodcraft.com.

For more about the American Association of Woodturners, visit www.woodturner.org.

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