A Little Visit with the “Shoeless Cabinetmaker” of Ponder Cove
Gary Van Rawlins is a fine furniture maker and a great teacher! I say he is a “fine” furniture maker because I have very limited experience in designing and hard crafting really unique and beautiful furniture. The furniture I saw at Ponder Cove created by Gary is really something to admire – subtle curves, incredible details, wood full of wonder, and impeccable craftsmanship.
I say he is a “great” teacher because I have studied, watched, and hopefully, helped develop teachers most of my adult life. I spent three days with Gary in August of 2008 at his workshop in Ponder Cove. It was a great learning experience. Gary’s style of teaching incorporates many of the design principles of “great instruction”:
o Clear and compelling quality standards,
o Presentation and use of truly remarkable exemplars,
o Instruction designed to enhance the student’s level of understanding of the principles of furniture craftsmanship;
o Product orientation,
o Practical skill development,
o Protection from the adverse effects of initial failure;
o Student Choice,
o Affiliation, and
I would heartily recommend to anyone who aspires to create beautiful things that he or she spend some time with Gary.
The old adage is that there are those who can do and those who can’t do and those who can’t teach. Gary is living proof that the old adage is sometimes wrong. He creates truly beautiful furniture and provides meaningful learning. His work and his teaching are a result of his principled practice, his patience, his perseverance, and his willingness to seek perfection. I am really glad I took the time to meet him and, I suspect, his teacher, James Krenov, would be proud of him for both reasons.