CFU’s Woodworking teacher Tracy Gray reminisces on how she found her great passion for building furniture–and her love for teaching:
I remember as a kid trying to bang a nail into two pieces of wood to build a box. It didn’t seem like it should be so hard but no matter how many times I tried, the box was weak and didn’t look good at all. I soon gave it up and figured I just wasn’t a woodworker.
Growing up as a young girl in Arkansas, there was no chance I would get into a woodworking class in school so I learned to sew instead. I remember the arms of my shirt didn’t end up in the right places either so I assumed I wasn’t a seamstress either. It wasn’t until I was in my early thirties and had moved to Colorado that I happened upon a great class offered by CFU called Building Log Furniture. I loved the mountain style and decided to try my hand with this “wood” thing again. With the help of two great instructors, I was able to leave the class with a solid piece of log furniture I still use to this day.
And there it began; I built many pieces of log furniture after that and started to feel more comfortable with hand tools and the process of joinery. After I had exhausted my need for more log furniture and still wanted to learn more, I joined a group of woodworkers and began following them around absorbing as much as possible. It is a slow way to learn but eventually I started building more advanced projects that would be given to friends and family. After several years, word of mouth started to take effect and people would ask me to build various custom projects for them. That has become a part-time business for me.
Around the same time, I was also asked to teach woodworking. I am a teacher by trade so the teaching aspect of woodworking really appealed to me. As most people know, teaching something is one of the best ways to really learn something. That has certainly been the case for me. I have learned more from my students than I could have ever learned from any other source. I can’t help but enjoy the day students leave with their projects. The pride they show is a great source of pride for me. Even after all these years teaching woodworking across the city, I still learn as much as I teach and appreciate all the interesting people I get to meet.
I was so excited when I first started teaching for CFU. It brought me back to my roots and gives me a chance to make people happy. You can’t help but be happy when you get to tell someone, “Hey, I made that”!