The Here and Now
I grew up in Northern California in a town called Chico. Let’s adjust the WABAC Machine..we are quickly on our way in no time at all to when I was introduced into the world of industrial arts, starting the eighth grade at Bidwell Junior High School. The classes that hooked me were wood shop, metal shop, mechanical drawing, and small gas engines.
During the first year of wood shop, we were only allowed to use hand tools. The instructors demonstrated the use of each and every tool as we all made the same project. The following year, power tools came into play and I made several small items including a black walnut coffee table for the house. At the end of the year my project was judged as the best, and I was awarded the Golden Hammer trophy.
Now on to Chico High School wood shop, and what an award-winning program it was. I’ll never forget our teacher, Mr. Holt. The man knew all the ins and outs of wood working.
Also on campus was a club called the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA), now known as Skills USA. I joined this club and competed in the field of Carpentry. Of the three years going all the way to the State competition, I was the Gold Medalist State Champion every year.
By my senior year, I had arrived. I was now the top dog in the wood shop building. But Mr. Holt put me in my place. The only B grade I received throughout my senior year was early in the semester and only in wood shop. I asked Mr. Holt, “Why? No one else can do what I can do.” Then he asked me, “But are you doing what you can do?” I’ll never forget those words. From then on I never settled for good. My work will always be the best! I didn’t send one project to the fair that year, I sent two. Still in use by my family, one is a reverse bow front black walnut china hutch, and the other is a grandmother clock which I gave to my Uncle Dave and Aunt Linda.
The hutch not only came back with a First Place ribbon, but also the Grand Award Best in Show of the Industrial Arts exhibit. Two months later we sent the hutch to the California State Fair. The judges wrote that it was flawless, and it appeared in the newspaper showing off its First Place award. Wow! another Gold Medal.
So where has my work been since then? Why haven’t you seen my custom wood work at any fairs or exhibitions? Well, let’s see.. After 6 Golden Hammer awards and 4 Gold Medals, the last one being from the California State Fair and Exposition, anything else would be like trading down.
But now after many years of construction and custom stair building, I’m back! For several years, I have been showing my work at the Laguna Art-A-Fair, Anaheim Art Crawl Experience (ACE), and Warehouse of Contemporary Art (WOCA).
As with all things, we come full circle through the Time Continuum..and the wood I now use is repurposed, it’s all “landfill-friendly.” Go Green!
Leonard J. Duarte