Women of Woodworking – WOO Pit Crew

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Rejection stings. It’s a necessary evil that every artist must develop a deep, complex relationship with. Sometimes we’re happy to be rejected. Other times it hurts enough to make you want to close your shop door and question whether or not there is even a place for you in the craft.

When I started Women of Woodworking I wanted to create an inclusive project that would share the stories of some of the world’s most talented makers and provide a project for all womxn regardless of skill level or years spent in the craft. I was inspired by many talented women and non-binary makers, including Sarah Marriage.

Marriage has delighted the woodworking community for years with her excellent craftsmanship and playful auteur signature. Just as her personal creative work pulls you in, Marriage is also adept at creating opportunities for others.

Three years ago Marriage founded A Workshop of Our Own or “WOO” for short, in Baltimore, MD. WOO is an inclusive organization with a mission “To create a professional woodworking environment which cultivates and promotes the careers of women and gender non-conforming craftspeople in our field.” WOO provides a welcoming workspace for many and demand for education and access to safe, communal workshop environments has grown.

As a result, WOO is in need of some important upgrades to help the shop run smoothly, but amidst all of the regular classes and organizing volunteers, there seemed to be no time and meager funds to get it all done. Enter: The WOO Pit Crew.

The WOO Pit Crew consists of four powerhouse women woodworkers, Aspen Golann, Claire Minihan, Kelly Harris, and Chelsea Witt. These four spirited and top-skilled makers are dedicating a week of their time, blood, sweat and tears to get WOO on track with new shop upgrades.

Knowing that it would take more than just their elbow grease to get WOO back on track, the WOO Pit Crew raised some serious funds to purchase materials and make it happen. In less than 24 hours of launching their online fundraiser, the WOO Pit crew smashed their donation goal of $3,950. The woodworking community not only rose to the occasion in support of their noble cause, they have more than tripled their goal. As of today, March 11, the WOO Pit Crew has raised an incredible $10,459 with only a few days left in their fundraising campaign.

When asked if she had anything to say about reaching their goal so quickly, Golann shared, “The woodworking community is one of the best things about this challenging, expensive and sometimes frustrating field. WOO does so much for underrepresented genders in woodworking and we wanted to do something for them.

I want to thank everyone for helping ensure that Kelly and Claire* and I can get to Baltimore and make an impact. We are going to continue to the fundraiser so that everyone can participate and pitch in. It feels good to be part of something like this. All of the additional funding will go toward safety upgrades and expanding WOOs ability to bring more people into the world of woodworking.”

In a world full of comparison and gatekeeping fueled by social media algorithms, the communal influence of woodworking has always remained ever-present, and it’s refreshing to hear these new voices rise above to say, “Welcome!” These are the voices of the new generation of woodworkers who are going above and beyond to make sure everyone has equitable access to the craft that we love so much. In a world that isn’t always kind, we see here what can happen when we truly help each other thrive.

Woodworking has been around for millennia because it’s practical. It’s tried and true and has captivated the hearts and souls of countless makers enough to be passed down, enjoyed, studied and taught for longer than I can possibly comprehend. And there is something about seeing these four people give so much of themselves in the spirit of the craft, and to see the community respond in the best way possible. It should give us hope, and remind us of why most of us got involved in woodworking to begin with. Love. We love woodworking, and we love the people in it. It builds so much more than just physical objects, woodworking builds relationships and connections between people in a unique way that only it can. The WOO Pit Crew and their work is a validation of that goodwill, and it’s heartwarming to see it continue to grow in these troubled times.

The WOO Pit Crew has developed a solid strategy to generate and sustain support for nonprofits and shops that serve underrepresented people in the craft. Their selflessness and volunteerism combined with the journeyman’s spirit of woodworking clearly has the potential to make an impact well beyond their week in Baltimore. “So many people contacted me about being on the “pit crew” next year. It’s just amazing because in my heart-of-hearts this project has always felt bigger than just a week or work, it’s about testing a model of community engagement and support,” added Golann, “I think we are all looking for ways to show up for each other – this is a new one that we’re trying out. I think we should keep talking about it because the message and model are separate from the money.”

If you’re interested in reading more about the WOO Pit Crew, or want to buy them a box of nails or a gallon of glue, hop on over to their fundraising page, their campaign will be accepting donations until 12:00 a.m. March 16, 2020.

You can view the rest of the Women of Woodworking series and landing page here.

*This quote was provided before Chelsea Witt joined the WOO Pit Crew.

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