Doing the Woodwork for Women courses with Patt Gregory in Mullumbimby is about more than learning how to saw straight, though that is an important skill you will learn. It is about being present in yourself and your body and learning that you are capable of creating what you have set out to do.
‘You can’t do woodwork and be thinking about what you’re going to make for dinner – you’ll make mistakes, get frustrated and do a half-arsed job,’ says Patt with a smile.
‘You won’t have an wholistic experience. People having a clear mind and dealing with anything negative that comes into your mind is part of the experience. It is a learning thing – woodwork brings it up. Here is a great place to acknowledge it and move beyond it.’
Since running her pilot Woodwork for Women course through the NEIS (New Enterprise Incentive Scheme) scheme in 1995 Patt has created a successful business that has taught many women the skills they needed to build kitchens, decks, sheds and day beds, just to name a few.
Having trained in Bristol in the UK as a joiner and carpenter with 26 ‘lads’ she ‘really struggled, but loved it.’
‘I didn’t understand how the boys just “got it”. My trainer would just take the tool and say “do this”.’
Patt realised that often young boys were taught these things by their dads and it wasn’t until she had worked out the nuances of weight and positioning for herself that she really felt that she had mastered the skills. ‘I have cultivated that information. I’ve honed it so that I can give clear, understandable instructions in short bursts that people can relate to.’
Woodwork for Women continues to go from strength to strength as Patt continues to teach and create learning materials for people who want to extend their woodworking skills. In 2010 she self-published a book Woodwork for Women: Cutting a new path for beginners that was launched at the Byron Writers Festival. ‘It is really the manual for the course that I teach here,’ said Patt.
Over the 23 years she has been developing and teaching the course increasing numbers of her students have flown in from around the country. ‘Most of my students are now from outside Byron Shire.’
Off to Sydney
And now Patt is taking her teaching out of the Shire as well, having recently been invited to Sydney to run two one-day workshops in Marrickville.
‘I was invited down to Sydney by Penny Petridis, who runs Female Tradie. She is an all-round tradie with lots of different skills, including metalwork and carpentry.
‘She started her business about five years ago and women kept saying to her “teach me” so she set up a workshop in Marrickville and asked me to do the inaugural “Introducing women to power tools and woodwork” course.’
Patt is heading back to Sydney to deliver more courses this month and will then be heading to teach in Adelaide in September. In the meantime she is developing a DVD to showcase a range of useful skills and techniques for woodwork.
‘I want to make woodwork a “normal” thing to teach your child, not a gender-oriented activity.’
Patt also teaches men and they are welcome to join one of the woodworking groups that she runs. You can find out more at www.woodworkforwomen.com.au.