It’s 4 am, and I’m covertly seated on a cold, marble floor. Fueled by an unhealthy mix of stress and adrenaline, I use what little energy I have to sand my furniture project long after the wood shop has closed. With one dip of the power sander, I nick my knee — nothing ghastly, but it’s enough to leave a scar — and as I sit there stunned, all I can do is laugh (probably the sleep deprivation kicking in). Is this my life?
At the time, it was my life. The project was truly the bane of my college architecture program. It was meant to be a [cruel] lesson in the realities of design: just because you can draw something, doesn’t mean it’s buildable (or that you should expect someone else to build it). When it came to drawing, or computer modeling, I could understand the “throw them into the deep end” approach, but when it came to power tools with the potential to seriously maim, I would have hoped for a gentler approach. That experience turned me off the trade of woodworking, made me feel inferior and unwelcome, and it did little to instill longterm skills.
Consequently, when I hear about workshop programs that embrace and nurture insecurities and work to fight gender stereotypes, I am all high fives and fist bumps. So I’m raising my rally cry for Sarah Marriage and WOO, A Workshop of Our Own. Unlike me, Sarah’s architecture school experience inspired her interest in designing and building, which led to woodworking school, which led to the woodworking marketplace. It was in this professional space where Sarah felt a sharp decline in females and, consequently, an intense focus on her gender when discussing her work. These experiences laid the groundwork for WOO.
A Workshop of Our Own (WOO, for short), based in Baltimore, MD is a supportive wood shop and educational space run by and for women and non-binary craftspeople. “I spend a lot of my time these days talking to people about ‘Why WOO?,’ Sarah says. “There is a portion of the population, of all genders, that think a separate space is a step backward, but I try to explain that the project isn’t about the absence of men; it’s about the presence of women and gender non-conforming people. And the powerful ripple effect that can have in our larger community.”
Sarah is running a fundraiser to buy the building that houses her workshop, so you can help WOO secure this space, and maybe prevent others from power-sanding their knees in the wee hours of the morning. Learn more about Sarah and WOO’s mission below. —Quelcy
Photography by Sarah Marriage, Toby Marriage, Jess Schreibstein and Allison Crowley.
Image Above: Sarah Marriage (center), the founder of WOO, and a group of volunteers.