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Selkirk College Fine Woodworking Students Feel the Future

Bob Hall
By Bob Hall
May 23rd, 2022

The creativity, intricacy and toil required to transform wood into brilliant functional design returns to the Nelson Trading Company for the 30th annual Fine Woodworking Year-End Show on May 27 to 29.

Students in Selkirk College’s nine-month Fine Woodworking Program have been building towards this moment since first entering the shop on Nelson’s Silver King Campus in September.

Guided by the steady hands and brilliant talent of instructors David Ringheim and Scott Stevens, this year’s cohort of almost two-dozen learners is excited to present the dazzling beauty of accomplishment.

“If you enjoy anything made with wood, it’s amazing to walk into a room and see 23 different styles of tables,” says student Tamarra Nantel-MacCracken.

“People will look at that and say: ‘I could never do that.’ That’s what initially goes through your mind because it seems like the skills you acquire during this program are unreachable. It’s incredible what is achieved.”

Nantel-MacCracken fondly remembers attending her first Fine Woodworking Year-End Show shortly after moving to Nelson from Ottawa in 1996. Inspired by the artistry and skill of students, the seeds were immediately planted for what has become her current reality.

Since attending that first year-end show in the mid-1990s, Nantel-MacCracken has been busy raising two children and working in a variety of different careers. With her youngest set to graduate from high school this year, amid the challenges of the pandemic she decided there was no better time to return to post-secondary.

After brushing up on her math skills through Selkirk College’s School of Academic Upgrading & Development, Nantel-MacCracken entered the Fine Woodworking Program in September.

“I always kept looking for something that would feed my soul,” says Nantel-MacCracken.

“I wanted to make creative art that was functional and the last nine months has confirmed that this is the medium I’ve been looking for.”

A Three Decade Tradition

One of the top fine woodworking programs in North America, students arrive to the Silver King Campus from across Canada. The nine-month program prepares students for apprenticeship positions in the cabinet making (joiners) trade or for careers as fine furniture builders. From theory to practical skills, graduates secure a broad scope of knowledge in both the classroom and shop.

Both Ringheim and Stevens are graduates of the Selkirk College program. Now vital mentors to a new generation, they are excited about the abilities and output from this year’s class.

“Even though I watch students progress daily, by the time of the year-end show it’s always impressive to see what is possible in nine months of school,” says Ringheim, who graduated with the Class of 2009.

“The majority of our students come in with very little tool experience and they are able to pull off some pretty amazing pieces for their first big projects. There is no mystery, it’s learning how wood works and what the tools can do. The year-end show allows those who come out, to see what is possible and know that this program is completely attainable by those who want to pursue a formal education.”

The first Fine Woodworking Year-End Show took place in 1990. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 show was canceled and the 2021 show was pushed to a virtual display of projects that include tables, cabinets, chairs, boxes and spoons. With chronology thrown off, the return of an in-person event makes this year’s show the 30th. Soaking in the budding talent live is exactly the way it should be enjoyed.  

“Pictures are nice, but it’s not the same as being in person,” says Ringheim.

“There is an ability to interact with the pieces and that is the way with wood: we want to touch it and feel it, open the drawers and open the doors. You can’t hide behind a camera and make it look good, so it’s important for the students to have their work out there and get feedback.”

As she puts the finishing touches on her projects, Nantel-MacCracken already has an eye on the next step of her learning journey. After graduation she will look for an apprenticeship to further build skills and ultimately wants to see her pieces for sale in fine furniture shops.

For now, she will focus on the year-end show and letting others know that anything is possible when you decide to explore your passion.

“The year went by so fast, it feels like I have been in the zone the whole time. I’m actually sad that it’s ending, but also very excited about the future,” Nantel-MacCracken says.“It’s going to be exciting to be able to show people what we have been up to, I’m curious to see reactions and get feedback. I have never put myself out there like this before, so it will be interesting to see how it all comes together for the show.”

The theme for this year’s show is “Transformation” with an opening night gala scheduled for Friday between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Students are raffling off a custom design/built piece of furniture that was the winning piece from the student design competition held earlier in the semester. Students will have selected pieces for sale at the show and others for display purposes only.

A free event, the entire community is invited to attend at the Nelson Trading Company (430 Baker Street) on May 27 (9 a.m. to 9 p.m.), May 28 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and May 29 (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). The opening night gala is also open to the public.

Learn more about the Selkirk College Fine Woodworking Program at:

PHOTO CAPTION:  Students and instructors in the Selkirk College Fine Woodworking Program are busy putting the finishing touches on the semester at Nelson’s Silver King Campus. With the theme of “Transformation,” students will celebrate their achievements at the annual Fine Woodworking Year-End Show that runs between May 27 and May 29 at the Nelson Trading Company on Baker Street. — Submitted

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