Wood Works for Women

Next Wood Works for Women at Make Liverpool, 19th November, book here.

One of the things I love doing best is walking around Liverpool discovering people who are doing interesting things that are adding to the sum total of human happiness and fairness round here. I’ve always written about these in a haphazard kind of way, but now that I’ve decided how much I like doing so as a core part of what I do you might expect to see more of what might be subtitled ‘good ideas from interesting people.’ Anyway, here’s the first.

Introducing Aleksandra Ola Rug.

I met Ola recently when she turned up at a couple of the events I’ve been helping to run for the Beautiful Parks Project. She came along with strong opinions and a track record in market gardening. And I’d suspect some of her ideas will feature in whatever happens next or soon in Liverpool’s parks and open spaces. But this post isn’t about market gardening. Like most interesting people Ola’s got more than one idea, and this one’s about wood and women. Over to her.

“As a young girl, I was living with a great craving for working and living off the land somewhere in the countryside. Yet my world was far from it, being brought up in post communistic Warsaw, in Poland, on a concrete housing estate.  I had a family friend who was brought up on a farm and I was very envious of her then. We’d go to visit her family sometimes and happy days there were filled with feeding farm animals, climbing trees, hiding in the fields, chasing butterflies, chopping wood for campfires, playing outside till dark and counting rain droplets on my skin.

This childhood friend had a small wooden shed outside her house and we spent many hours playing there. Boys were not allowed! This is when I first thought of building my own furniture, my “She-shed” (like a man’s cave) or tiny house. This small girl’s dream. I was only 7.

My dad was a skilled architect, engineer and entrepreneur and built all our first furniture from recycled wood. My favourite was a pair of little stools that I used to play on with my younger sister. I was brought up with the idea that anything you need you can make yourself, as long you are willing to be resourceful, have the courage to be creative and take risks.

Unexpectedly dad died of cancer when I was 14 before he could pass on all his woodworking skills to me. But I kept the basic skills going, although eventually I swapped power tools for a drawing pen and became a landscape architect instead, building community gardens and growing spaces in cities.

Many years then went by until an opportunity presented itself to live more sustainably, off grid. So it was in 2015, with great help from my husband’s parents and a family friend, we converted an old diesel van into a living home on wheels. I realised while doing this how rusty my woodworking and carpentry skills had become and how little confidence I now had, particularly when it came to working with power tools.

I was also going through a career change and recovering from serious career burn out, and soon discovered I was finding great comfort in working with wood in nature. Especially with the reclaimed, salvaged or no longer needed wood that someone else had thrown away.  When I started to work with all the power tools I discovered that it gradually made me feel more and more confident.

But it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t got get help from a very modest, skilled gentleman who’d found me drilling and breaking screws in my struggles to relearn what I’d already known. A family friend, he had all the patience in the world and taught me bit by bit again. He never rushed me, nagged me or assumed he knew it all. But also he didn’t treat me like a complete idiot either. He just let me experiment, make a few mistakes and slowly become a skilled woman again…

I will never forget his words of encouragement and his non–judgemental attitude. This was exactly what I needed. The gentleness, straightforwardness and modesty of a kind teacher.

This experience made me aware of my potential as a builder and designer again. I thought if I can convert a campervan, what else is possible?

I also realised that as a woman I need a different approach to learning and experimenting. We need to be given opportunities to problem solve and from then on using power tools just makes you feel more powerful.

One day, I now know, I will build my own home when the time is right. In the meantime I’ve found that many women are interested in woodworking, carpentry, landscape design, natural building and permaculture and are  becoming part of a movement to create our own more naturally sustainable lives. But that access to opportunities for women to learn in the friendly way I did are still limited. The need is growing but the supply isn’t there.”

So Ola’s had an idea. Woodworking courses for women. Happening round here and very soon.

“When women come together and learn in a fun, non-threatening, more relaxed way, we can benefit greatly from skill sharing and group empowerment.  I’ve learnt that it’s empowering to be helped and to help others!

The natural building of a community is warm, friendly and expanding.

At Heal Earth, where I am the Director, we are  growing a community of women who are aspiring to be newborn urban farmers and carpenters. Who will learn the skills together to build our own healthy natural houses, she sheds, community gardens, market gardens, allotments and healing communities.

This is how the Women Makers Programme was born. Women want to  learn skills with other women, so we created these women only workshops and are going to be offering short and long term courses and summer programs that will provide hands-on training and experiences in everything we’ll need.

First of all we’re launching our first Woodworking Classes from the end of October and through November in Chester. Thanks to the generosity and expertise of our very skilled and friendly tutor Graham Stephens who founded his Woodwork to Wellness Project , home to over 2,000 sq ft of workshop space at Saltney Business Centre, Chester.

We’ve also teamed up with Ronnie’s friends at Make Liverpool and are offering Woodworking Women Classes there too, with our very experienced tutor Mark Evans from Make Liverpool – who has ten years’ joinery experience under his tool belt, and a degree in fine art to go along with it. During these classes he’ll walk you through the steps to crafting your own beautiful wooden creations to take home.

Then before too much longer we might all be able to join together in constructing our own homes and gardens. What do you think?”

See dates, locations and how to book on Ola’s Wood Works for Women courses in Chester and at Make Liverpool here.

“And if you would like to sponsor any places for women who might appreciate the help please let us know.

Also, we’re now looking for woodwork workshop places and friendly tutors on the Wirral. So if you are one or know one please get in touch.”

There we are then. Mostly reposted from her own blog, here. Thank you for the story Ola and the inspiration.

Next Wood Works for Women at Make Liverpool, 19th November, book here.


Published by Ronnie

Writing about life, Liverpool and anything else that interests me. As well as working with others to make the world a fairer and kinder place: http://asenseofplace.com.

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