Woodcraft Continues Support as AAW Youth Program Returns After Two-Year Break

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AAW Youth Turning Symposium

An adult volunteer observes a young turner during the Youth Turning sessions at the annual AAW International Symposium. (Photo by Andi Wolfe)

Fourteen youths, ages 10 to 18, participated in turning classes offered during the American Association of Woodturners (AAW) 36th Annual International Symposium held in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in June – the first sessions since the 2019 symposium.

Woodcraft contributed face shields and supplies for instructors. Other sponsors include: JET/POWERMATIC, lathes and stands; Crown Hand Tools, tool sets; Teknatool International, chucks; Easy Wood Tools, tool sets; and Craft Supplies USA, project supplies.

The Youth Turning Program was launched by the AAW in 2005 to attract young people to woodturning by offering a hands-on opportunity to learn the craft in a class setting. No experience is necessary, but a participant needs to be with an adult registered at the symposium.

“Woodcraft is pleased that youth were again able to learn the woodturning craft from experts in the exciting atmosphere of the AAW International Symposium,” President and CEO Jack Bigger said. “Support for youth turning programs is an investment in the future of woodworking.”

Youth instructors and classes included Nick Cook, Candlestick and Ring Holder; Andi Sullivan, Egg-leidosope; Sally Ault, Honey Dipper and Twist Pen; Katie Stofel, Coffee Scoop and Ice Cream Scoop; and Kailee Bosch, Cupcake Box and Flower Pot. Stofel and Bosch, both young turners, were students in the program a few years ago.

“The overall attendance for the AAW symposium was down, which we assume in some part was due to COVID and high transportation costs,” Linda Britt, AAW Board VP/Youth and Special Programs Chair, said. “We decided to allow the youth to take as many of the 10 turning rotations as they wanted, but we then opened the classes up to attendees at the symposium, many of whom were spouses who have never turned. This addition to our program was so popular we plan to do it again in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2023.”

Three youths were each awarded a lathe and equipment used in the classes. Their names were drawn from the 14 participants who attended the turning rotations but had not won a lathe previously. Winners are Seth Eichenberger, Eli Stainaker and Blaze Jones.

Ten Educational Opportunity Grant applicants were awarded lathes and supporting equipment to serve organized youth turning programs in schools and local AAW chapters.

A young turner focuses on the piece he is creating on the lathe. (Photo by Andi Wolfe)

A volunteer watches while a young turner creates the top for a cupcake box on the lathe. (Photo by Andi Wolfe)

Lighthouse for the Blind Session

In addition to the youth, adults with visual impairment were again invited to participate in a turning session taught by Andi Sullivan, who shares that disability. Sullivan arranged with the Signal Centers in Chattanooga for 14 adults in their Vision Program to attend.

One lathe and supporting equipment were donated to the Signal Centers, and members of the Tri-State Woodturners located in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee, will now teach classes at the center, making this the eighth program for the visually impaired that Sullivan and the AAW have established.

“All 14 participants had a great time and are excited about the program,” Sullivan said.

Andi Sullivan helps an adult with visual impairment learn to use a lathe. Andi also taught one of the youth classes.  (Photo by Andi Wolfe)

Sally Ault, right, helps a student during the Lighthouse for the Blind turning session. She also taught a youth class. (Photo by Andi Wolfe)

A panel discussion at the 2013 AAW Symposium led Sullivan to found the Lighthouse for the Blind program in Tampa, Florida, where the symposium was held that year. Since then, Sullivan and the AAW have partnered to establish Lighthouse for the Blind programs in each city that has hosted a symposium – Tampa; Phoenix, Arizona; Pittsburgh; Atlanta; Kansas City, Missouri; Portland, Oregon; Raleigh, North Carolina, and now Chattanooga, Tennessee.

After the 2019 symposium, Sullivan was hoping to find corporate sponsors to keep the Lighthouse program funded. However, the pandemic interfered and stopped classes. “They are just now reopening,” she said, so “no corporate sponsor.”

For more information about the American Association of Woodturners and the Youth Turning program, visit woodturner.org.

To learn more about Sullivan and the Lighthouse program, read Andi Sullivan - Opening Up the World of Woodturning to the Blind and Disabled at woodcraft.com. 

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