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Mays On Wood!

Working With Wood: Laura Mays talks on history of College of the Redwoods Fine Woodworking Program

by Roberta Werdinger

On Saturday, July 26, from 2 to 3 pm, Laura Mays, Director of the Fine Woodworking Program at College of the Redwoods will lecture on its 33-year history at the Grace Hudson Museum. The event is free with Museum admission. Refreshments will follow the lecture.

ThomasBoxend"Does everyone in the world have a material they resonate with?" Laura Mays wonders. Obviously, hers was wood, something she learned early on in her native Ireland, where a woodworking course invited her into the possibilities of crafting a piece under her own hand. A search on the Internet led her to James Krenov, the Fine Woodworking Program's charismatic founder, whose unique teachings and writings influenced a whole generation of craftspeople. Mays traveled from "one wild west coast to another," as she puts it, arriving in Fort Bragg in 2001 to enroll in the program. Like many of its graduates, Mays went on to her own woodworking and teaching career, crafting a variety of strong, simple, and modern pieces from Irish and locally grown hardwoods by herself and with her partner, Rebecca Yaffe. Mays became director of the Fine Woodworking Program in 2011.

Although the Fine Woodworking Program attracts a diverse group of students from around the world, Mays feels that they are united in the intensity they bring to their studies, an intensity which finds them working long hours in the studio. The results of their dedication is showcased in over 50 pieces of work made from a wide variety of wood, ranging from chairs and desks to free-standing sculpture, in the Grace Hudson Museum's current exhibit, "Growth Rings: A Regional Retrospective of College of the Redwoods Fine Woodworking Graduates." In addition to work made by program graduates who are currently living in Northern California, the exhibit also features work by program founder James Krenov and juror John Arndt, Professor in the Product Design Department at the University of Oregon.

Mays' talk, and the surrounding exhibit, will be of interest to anyone who seeks the simple and profound dialogue that happens between a person and an inanimate object. As Mays and Yaffe write on their website, "One of the paradoxes of craft is that a craftsperson attempts to use as much skill, care, time and attention as necessary to get the work right--in this case, an even finish--and yet one of the values of craft is an indication of the humanity of the maker. And so we relish that paradox, striving to do our best, but acknowledging that we will never attain any form of perfection."

The Grace Hudson Museum is at 431 S. Main St. in Ukiah and is a part of the City of Ukiah's Community Services Department. Exhibition programming support is made possible through the Sun House Guild. The Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 am to 4:30 pm and Sunday from noon to 4:30 pm. General admission to the Museum is $4, $10 per family, $3 for students and seniors, and free to members or on the first Friday of the month. For more information please go to or call 467-2836. To find out more about Laura Mays' work, go to

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