After chatting for many months, trading sets of koa for Red spruce, and learning about each others build process, he asked if I would be interested in coming to Hawaii to teach him and several other small builders my inlay techniques. At first I was thinking that has to be some sort of trick question, right? I get to go to Hawaii. To show people how to do my favorite thing. In February, arguably the worst month of the year. (Sorry Valentine's day and Nick's birthday, you don't redeem that dreary cold month in my book.) After it was confirmed he was not joking, we set up the dates and I booked a flight for myself and for Nick. (Because of the birthday.)
I love airports. To me they signify a gateway to possibility, adventure, and unknown. Everyone is going somewhere, has a purpose, and a reason for being there. I have spent countless hours in these expansive bustling buildings, usually alone, but never feeling lonely. My favorite pastime is observing the folks whizzing around me, wondering where they live, where they are going and who they are going to meet at the opposite gate. I will often make up backstories based on clues gleaned from their luggage, attire, and demeanor. Once I saw a woman carrying a shiny gold trophy through the terminal. It stood several feet high when she sat it on the floor. She didn't look particularly athletic, wearing dress pants with footwear inappropriate for comfortable travel and that was the only thing she had with her-no other luggage or sports bags so I didn't suspect she won an athletic event. I like to imagine it was awarded for an adult spelling bee and she won for an awesome word, perhaps something along the likes of 'callipygian'. (Feel free to look that one up.)
The flights, Asheville to Lihue, Kauai, via Atlanta and Los Angeles, weren't bad. Not too long, no excessive turbulence, and only one obnoxious seat mate who was overly excited about the cruise he was going on to Mexico with his Corvette club. Nick took the brunt of that one as I busied myself with being super interested in watching Jack Black drive his Waggoneer away from monsters of his own creating in Goosebumps. It was amazing. (It had to be.)
|Orange juice from the yard!!|
|View at Paul's house|
|Breakfast-pineapple, Portuguese sausage, french toast, and tiny but super sweet bananas|
|Sunset dinner on the beach.|
After a sunny hike along sea cliffs ending at Shipwreck beach, that musubi tasted amazing. Kind of like a salty pork sandwich sushi roll. When we got back to his house that night I told Paul I really liked the musubi and asked what it was. "It's Spam!!" Then he cackled, like literally cackled, for a full minute. Nick got musubi every day after that stating it is perfect hiking food.
Paul didn't seem phased that I had never taught an inlay class before. But standing before nine adults, all older than me and all having experience in woodworking and instrument building, I wondered if I could actually teach them anything. I thought back to my dad's advice, "Just go tell them what you do and how you do it. That's all you can do. You don't have to tell them about anything you don't know." He said that to me on the phone as I was hyperventilating outside the hotel before my talk at the Fretboard Summit in San Diego. Like now, I was going to go speak to a group of people who all had more experience than I did and were all older than I am. But I did what he said and it went just fine. (More on that trip later) The situation I was facing now seemed somehow different than that experience though. I have such a strong passion for inlay and know that I can do it well that I felt much more comfortable in this little cramped shop on Kauai than I did sitting in that chilly room in San Diego. I know that the inlay I do is sound and that I have gleaned enough experiences along the way to be able to show people my process.
Teaching the inlay class I thought how would Tommy show these people this skill? I thought back to one of the very first lessons he taught my freshman year climbing class. Sitting in a circle on the blue spongy floor of the gymnastics gym (which happened to be in the same room as the climbing wall) he showed us how to tie a bowline knot with a little narrative about a bunny and a tree. The bunny (aka the rope end) comes out of his hole (a loop in the rope), looks all around his tree the rope) and then dives back in his hole. And you have a bowline. To teach my students how to make a turn with the saw blade, I told them the saw had to march in place. I know the task is different, but the goal is the same and visual narratives seem to help drive home concepts. I thought of Tommy's bowline lesson and all the ones following that one, and thought, 'Alright, I can teach this like Tommy does." I knew he would make sure everyone felt like they were successful, praise their effort before offering a helpful critique, and always be clear and positive when presenting information. So I did that. And everyone had fun and everyone cut out an amazing design, all slightly different from the inlay I showed them. They all brought their own ideas and personality to the project which made me feel successful too. I had the best time those two days, and feel as though I made lasting friendships as well as showing people a skill and making them feel as though they can do something they couldn't before. I doubt I made as strong an impression on my students as my teacher Tommy did on my life, but if they get a tenth of the confidence and knowledge he bestowed upon me, I am grateful.
|Two of my awesome students brought me a lei!|
|What we mad|
Paul sent me home with a tan (ok a sunburn), a fascination for feral roosters, a taste for Spam, a 100 year old plank of a kona coffee tree, and most importantly confidence that I am proficient enough at what I do that I can show other people how to do it. Nick asked if he could help make the kona coffee ukulele. I was surprised he wanted to learn, but am so excited that I get to teach him how to make a ukulele. We have been working on it each weekend I am home and he is doing an excellent job. We successfully made it through a week of canoeing in Florida together, which Tommy calls divorce boats, so I bet we can make it through building a ukulele together too.
|A shop in Kalaheo that only uses koa...|
|Shave ice is serious in Hawaii. That wasn't the large.|
|Hiking to a waterfall!|
|My rooster friend Monty. On top of an 800ft waterfall. He left once he saw I didn't have food for him.|