I've been chewing over the responses I have had to my previous announcement about possible Japanese carpentry study courses later this year, and have drawn some new conclusions I'd like to share.
A couple of people suggested an online study format of some sort, and I have been thinking this over more seriously and do believe it holds much promise. One thing I recognize and acknowledge is that there are blog readers and followers here who do not live remotely close by my location, and for whom the costs of flying out to take a workshop, with the attendant time off of work and away from family, along with added food and sundry costs, makes a workshop a tough proposition time-wise and financially. Also, the pace of study in a workshop does not suit all participants. If we move along at a pace I like to work, or in effort of covering a lot of material, many people get overwhelmed, understandably, and really can't keep up. Once the glass is full, so to speak, there's little to be gained from pouring more water in there, and those that have attended some workshops I have given in the past would concur that such an overflowing does characterize much of the experience. And if I slow the pace down to the 'average' course participant's rate of work, as I did in the last course I taught, a lot less material tends to get covered and some participants may end up feeling frustrated or shortchanged by that. Finally, some people freeze up a bit in group settings and may feel intimidated or pressured for one reason or another, and this holds them back from getting the most out of the process.
So, online learning seems like a good option for many. There is the matter of individual motivation, and that will vary among folks out there, but the opportunity is there to study at your own pace and as one's personal schedule allows. So, the pressure is largely off. Some may prefer to be entirely passive about the whole thing, and such has been the case for the majority of people who have purchased the first two volumes of my Carpentry essay, where the assignments involved completing a table of values using repetition of calculation, and the construction of a non-joinery hopper. And that's fine- I would prefer people take the information from the essays and actually start cutting wood, but I certainly can't force anyone to do so.
Another point on my mind concerns the content of this blog. It varies from personal reflections and process analysis, to detailed looks at history and culture, to build threads, to technical/instructional exposes, such as the 'X' Marks the Spot series from earlier this year. From doing that drawing series, I realized there was a contingent out there who were interested in a step-by-step learning approach to carpentry drawing, and at the same time, there were undoubtedly other readers out there who found it all a bit outside their area of interest. Indeed, during those series I was a bit concerned that despite the huge number of hours that went into the work on my end, that I might have been turning some people off of the blog as a result.
Here's what I have decided to do: the blog will continue as usual with build threads, photo essays, book reviews, etc., however there will be no more technical/instructional series. For that side of things, I will be starting an online Carpentry Study Group, which will be by paid subscription. The format will allow for inter-activity among members of the study group, so that people can both ask me questions and discuss/share stuff with other members. At the conclusion of a project, members can post up pictures of their competed pieces - or not - and will have the option of letting those picture(s) being posted on this blog. You don't have to make anything if you don't want to, or don't have the time, but I hope you will! I am planning to release study material in a graduated fashion so as to allow enough time for students to make the pieces, and keep a good flow to the process. We'll explore both Japanese, French, and even German carpentry. The focus will be on carpentry drawing, that is, layout. I'll be making the pieces too and will provide photo essays of how I go about the cutting, in more detail than I typically share on the blog. While I already have a good idea of a logical progression of learning tasks, I will be open to participant needs/wants, and flexible enough to take side trips from time to time.
The subscription fee will be $20/month. People can opt in or out anytime they like. So long as 'dues' are paid by the first of the month, subscribers will continue to receive installments. If you didn't pay dues, then I take you off the list. If you pay your dues and don't like the material after receiving the first installment, I'll refund your money. These installments will be mailed out to subscribers in much the same way as I currently provide the carpentry essays, and will have much larger photo files than the blog so that the drawings will have much better detail than what you see on the blog. I will also look at doing video presentations of certain aspects of the material.
So, we'll see what happens - I'm very much wanting to form a community of people interested in delving into technical carpentry practice, who want to study and make stuff. If you're interested in getting involved, and want to push your technical carpentry savvy into new areas, please contact me at the usual email address. Subscription is by way of Paypal (to my email) or personal check drawn on a US bank and mailed to me. The first course is slated to start on July 1st, 2011, and will be delving into splayed box joinery and from there moving into splayed leg sawhorse/table construction. After that, we'll probably make a Japanese hip roof model. And again, to be clear, this blog will be continuing in it's usual way, with much the same content as before, sans technical drawing threads.
I'm looking forward to seeing what the repsonse is. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say. Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way, and comments always welcome.