Time for Reflection as the Build Comes to an End

Through woodturning, many people have found a release from their demons. I did. By using the Black Dog Workshop as a tool to help encourage as many people as possible to try turning is where the true triumph will lie. 

Well, here we are, virtually at the end of the build, and the beginning of what I think will be a great new dawn.

That might sound a bit big headed, ‘a great new dawn’, but for me personally, it is so much more than that. The photo above is a collection of prints pinned to the workshop notice board which will remind me of what has happened in the last few months, and show visitors to the workshop the huge amount of work that has been done to get to this point. I am staggered.

The idea and build of the workshop has been both a trial and a triumph, and this post will be a reflection on the last few months, as well as a brain dump!

Let me explain.

FILE0044The Trial

Unsurprisingly, it has been a huge amount of work. I’m not afraid of hard work, but this has been so hard at times, I felt like just closing the door and moving on – beaten by the task my dream and idea put in front of me. I’ve felt guilty at the amount of time I have put into it since the end of the summer. My mind has been filled with it, and stuff to do, that occasionally, I have not been in the room with my family. My body has, but my mind has been rooted firmly in what will happen tomorrow, and next week. I guess everyone who is so deeply focused on something does the same. Physically it has been a drain too, as I’m sure you can imagine. It was only last night (4th November) that I actually managed a full 8 hours of sleep, and I’m sure I could have caught up on some more, given the chance.

This must sound like a huge moan, but trust me, it’s not! This post is more of a brain dump, heart-on-sleeve moment that I want to share with you. I hope this doesn’t make me appear to be a martyr.

Financially, it has been incredibly hard. So much money spent on an ‘idea’ with virtually no planning, other than the belief that I can make it work. There is that gut feeling though that you know it is the right thing to do but staggering almost blindly into it. Gut feelings can be dangerous to follow, yes, but sometimes, that gut feeling is so powerful, you have to go with it, no matter the potential cost.

To some, I am sure that is how it appears, and they’d be right, too, to a point. Although there was much thought about opening a ‘school’ for woodturning, in the end it happened so fast, I had no choice but to run with it. As the days and weeks past, it became apparent that this was indeed the right thing to do.

At the end of more than one day of the build, a heavy weight would rest itself on my mind, and it made me question myself, my motives and the project as a whole. If you’ve ever suffered from any kind of ‘demon’ then you’ll know exactly how hard it can be to fight it off and get your mind straight again. It can be just as tiring to fight the mental fight as it can be to do the physical stuff. But, with support from loving family and followers, the turnaround in mind-set is easier.

Oddly, there’s also a not a small amount of guilt from being missing from my usual YouTube channel! I feel a great deal of loyalty towards my subscribers and followers that not to be able to make videos for them has made me feel really bad.

For the most part though, their understanding in the new project has been amazing – and I am grateful for their (your!) patience. Put it this way – I am more than aware that if it were not for YouTube and social media, I would not be in the position I am in today – and I feel I owe each of you thanks for that.

The Triumph

There was an idea, and it is becoming a reality. There has been so much support from all quarters that it is incredibly humbling. From anonymous donations of money to donations of blanks and pen kits, the support has left me sort of dumbfounded and even more determined to get it off the ground and up and running – to make something that will reach, teach and encourage as many people as possible into woodturning.

I’m not out to get the world into turning – even if, just by coming and having a go at woodturning, the experience opens someone’s eyes to creative possibilities and they follow their imagination afterwards, then I feel I would have done my job. If I can help people deal with their demons, then I would have succeeded, too.

None of this would have really been possible in my old workshop, though. At least, I don’t think it would – not to the scale I have in my minds-eye, anyway.

bd_0003The gentlemen who came to help put the walls and benches together were amazing on 1st and 2nd October. They are extraordinary in both their willingness to help and generosity of their time. Most of them I’d never met before and some drove for hours to get here for the weekend to help out. I will never forget that.

Through social media, this guy in the countryside of England had an idea to put something together, and people from quite literally all over the world support it – some physically, some financially, some with donations, but many with fabulous words and posts of support. I mean that whole-heartedly. The amount of support has been such a huge help in keeping going – most of you I may well never meet, and that makes it all the more humbling.

Add to that the stories some of you have shared on the website. I can’t reply to them as I don’t know what to say. I really don’t, but believe me when I say I am grateful to each one who has shared their story. They have inspired me as much as I hope they have inspired others, too.

You have to have a certain amount of strength to share the story of your demons – they can be fiercely personal and secretive and try to stop you from doing things. The stigma that surrounds metal health is again, a personal one. People generally don’t understand it, unless they are suffering themselves. But the strength needed to talk about it comes from an acceptance that they are there and a desire to recover. These people (mostly strangers to me) shared their story with me (and you) because they believe in the what the workshop will bring to people just as much as I do.

I’ve had my own demons, and they come back at bite me. They’ve bitten hard sometimes in the last few months, as I mentioned . . . but the bites are numbed by reading the stories again and knowing that I’m not alone. Indeed, none of those who have shared their stories are alone. To share it is to accept it, and by accepting it, you can deal with it. By sharing you realise that you are not alone, and there is hope and a better state of mind to be had out there.

Through woodturning, many people have found a release from their demons. I did. By using the Black Dog Workshop as a tool to help encourage as many people as possible to try turning is where the true triumph will lie.

Helping Those With ‘Demons’

Some people I meet on social media and face to face have said that their turning helps them with their depression or other mental illnesses. The stories shared here further confirm that there is a benefit to the mental state of woodturning as well as other creative pass-times. Now, I’m no doctor or psychiatrist, but I know it helps. I can’t find any written medical papers on it online, but I know it works, and if you turn to help, then you know it too.

One of the goals of the workshop is to encourage a sense of achievement and self confidence in those with mental illnesses so they can discover the benefits of turning. Perhaps they may even take it up as a hobby after trying it out.

I need to be careful how I do this though. I am putting discounts into place for mental health agencies and charities to pass on to the people they help. I can’t let these discounts ‘out in public’ as then anyone could come along, claim to be depressed and get a discount on turning experiences. I’m sure you understand that

That then leads on perhaps, to an argument over Equal Opportunities, as was mentioned to me the other day. More thought is needed on this, I think. Perhaps, rather than offering a discount on existing courses, a collection of courses specifically designed for these agencies and charities would be better. There are more discussions to have on this with the agency concerned.

Getting through to the right people at the agencies can be difficult. They are charitable, mostly and have a great deal of work to do that having someone reply to an email or phone call can be a waiting game, I’ve found. One place I called had so many options of people to speak to, I was left confused, so just spoke to the first person I could who said they would forward my details to the right person. After three follow-up messages, I am still to hear anything back.

Sorting all this out before the opening date of the workshop, I now realise was a bit of a pipe-dream. I’m undeterred though. I have a couple of very promising ‘ins’, and will be following those up and getting them running before approaching anyone else. At least then, I will be able to talk to new people with actual evidence that it works.

Those I have managed to speak to so far, are very excited about the prospect of having the Black Dog Workshop as a recommended place for people to come.

It’s not just those agencies dealing with mental health issues I am interested in getting involved with. Youth groups such as the Scouts, the University of the Third Age (activities for senior citizens), young offenders, the parole board – there are many places where I feel the activities of the workshop could be of benefit.

It Can’t Be for the Love Of It Though

As much as I would love to – I can’t run the workshop for the love of it, and I don’t expect anyone would think that of me. It’s been one of things that has plagued my mind over the last few months though – the thought that people expect me to do it all for free. It seems strange now, as  am writing this, that I was thinking like that. We all need to make a living, and this is part of how I make mine.

Turning has been full time for me now for a while and the Black Dog Workshop is an extension of that. I need to charge for things like consumables etc, just the same way as I need to charge for the Hampshire Sheen that I make. It is a fact of life that we need to make some money here and there!

With the new workshop though, I can offer group turning at a cheaper rate – even free, sometimes – I will be doing free turning days every now and then to encourage people to come along and quite literally have a go to see if they like it. Then, they may come back for more. The point is this – I am making turning accessible for those curious without charging a reasonable sum of money for them to have a bash at it.

blackdogworkshop-membership-logoMembership of The Black Dog Workshop

Out there, there must be people who want to turn, but can’t for various reasons. Perhaps they can’t afford a lathe or the kit. Maybe they can turn, but don’t have access to a lathe. Maybe they just don’t have space for a lathe.

This is where membership of the Black Dog Workshop comes in after taking inspiration from a club in Yorkshire.

Anyone will be able to become a member of the workshop for an annual fee and have use of the lathes and the kit. Lathe time will be bookable by the hour. Your time on the lathe will be untutored and mostly unsupervised. Therefore, a competency test must be completed on the first visit. A members only beginners course will also be available. The only additional payment will be a small fee for consumables like abrasives and finishes (unless you bring your own).

Members will also benefit from discounts on the workshops and lessons available.

There will be Member’s Days in the workshop once a month alternating between Saturdays and Sundays with demos and hints and tips, evenings and live demonstrations via Facebook and YouTube. There will also an evening meeting once a month too.

Space is limited so places on the Member’s Days may have to be booked in advance. Not sure yet.

Currently, two types of membership will be available – Online Only, which gives access to the private Black Dog Facebook Group and live events, plus discounts on any downloadable material and a Full Membership which gives everything.

Details will be released when I’ve worked them out properly, but rest assured that the emphasis will be on turning, and not just talking!

An Incomplete Journey

comeTrue20161103_165822From a personal perspective, and because I am so close to the project, I find it difficult to appreciate the distance travelled in such a short space of time. The difference in the space the workshop occupies is monumental, but I have seen it change little step by little step. Even looking at the pictures of before and after don’t seem to sink in properly.

I am so very excited to get started in there, that I find myself at times, spinning the lathes on and off just to see the chucks going round. I’ve not turned anything really in about six weeks, aside from three bowls at a demo in Exeter last weekend – but I don’t count that as it wasn’t in the workshop. They did give me a chance to play some more with the Nova Comet lathe though, which I love even more now. Great machines.

This part of the journey is virtually complete, but it must continue and I am sure I will meet many new people and hopefully start them on their own journeys into woodturning and creative pursuits. Ahead, there are many turns and junctions to negotiate, but I feel very prepared for it. I feel better in myself than I have done for a considerable length of time and I know that this was absolutely the right thing to do, both for me and my desire to teach and share my experiences and skills.

The guilt I’ve felt over not putting videos out on my M. Saban-Smith YouTube channel will soon go as I have a raft of project ideas to share, and they will all be from the new workshop. There will also be some videos from the Black Dog Workshop channel too. Quite what format they will take, I’m not sure. It may be that some of the visitors show what they turned, or beginners videos, or something along a vLog line. I’m not sure yet. But as the subscriber base grows, the workshop journey will continue to be shared on YouTube.

Facebook of course has been incredible too, and this page will continue to grow.

Needless to say, I am very tired and am also looking forward to some time off over Christmas and the New Year.

 How This Post Has Helped – Driven Home the Belief

Having written this post and brain dumped it all here, all the aspects of the workshop have fallen more neatly into line. There is a new clarity now, and I know what to do next. A lot of what has happened recently was done very ad-hoc, with only the goal of completion in mind, not any real order of what to do next.

Writing this post has further driven home the belief in this project, further driven home that it is the right thing to do and people will come to learn here.

The two most important words of this post for, I think must be I believe. I believe that what I am doing here is right and I believe that it will work.

I just need to make it work!

…..and Thank You.

You’ll probably hear a lot of thank yous coming in the next few videos, but here are some to get you going….I must say a huge thank you to everyone who has subscribed to the YouTube Channel and followed the workshop on Facebook – your comments and feedback have been brilliant. I’m behind on replying, but will get there.

Thanks again to the guys who came to help on 1st and 2nd October. The efforts of these guys catapulted the build forward by weeks and weeks.

Big thanks to those who have sent me private messages about the project. Your words of encouragement and support have been priceless.

To those who have bought patches, stickers and stress balls – thank you! I hope you enjoy them!

To those who have made donations. Thank you. Your contributions have been so generous, it is moving even to write words of thanks let alone speak to you in person.

Friends. Many of you I consider as friends. Some of you I’ve never met, but friendship can be formed from many different things. And through the joys of the internet, I’ve got to know a little about you and I really appreciate your support.

My family. Thanks for putting up with me when I’ve been tired and stressed. Family support is incalculable in it’s strength.

small-plans_5And finally, to my partner Natalja. Without Natalja, the whole project would not be at this point now – just the same as the ‘October Boys’. Her efforts and belief in what I was planning has been unerring. And, her efforts in helping gut the potting shed where the workshop now is, have been immense…and the outside of the workshop? Tidy and clean to a standard I could never attain. Thank you, darling.

Thank you for reading, and I hope this post hasn’t bored you!

Stand by for some great things coming from the Black Dog Workshop!

2 Replies to “Time for Reflection as the Build Comes to an End”

  1. Thanks for sharing all of these thoughts with us. I think we all realise what an enormous task you embarked on and are amazed at how quickly it has come together. I worked for East Surrey Mental health services for 18 years though in 2006 was tupe transferred to Richmond Fellowship. The workshops that we ran won Beacon award for variety and in the nineties I ran a database and website of organisations around Europe offering training and sheltered work to people suffering many disabilities and then all of a sudden they were not in favour as the words “Social inclusion” meant they closed the segregated units to encourage everyone to go to local colleges etc. Though a more laid back special course will be better for many the powers that be seem to think integration.
    Colleges offer discounts to disabled or people on benefits in the same class as those paying full price. Don’t beat yourself up, relax and enjoy. All the best – see you Wednesday, Christine

  2. Hi Martin
    Nice dump!! I have already told you how inspiring and meaningful your endeavour is to me. I f I was living back in England, I would have been there with you; however, Vancouver, Canada is a little too far away to come for the weekend. My thoughts are with you though. I too, like Christine, have worked in mental health. The stigma surrounding mental health issues is suffocating. I have decided that my contribution to The Black Dog Workshop will be to share my own experiences with depression and anxiety, openly and honestly. It feels risky and, at times, I will begin doubting what I may have posted: my mind will begin its incessant chatter bringing up doubts and fears about how I have exposed myself and how crazy people will think I am. However, I have enough experience to see that for what it is: a mind ranting away totally disconnected from reality. I think this is the key: let the mind rant, but try not to listen to it. Trust your intentions and feelings about what you are doing. I know this is so, so easy to say, but, with practice it works. One last thing: don’t undervalue your talent and time. This is another trick of the mind. You have worked very hard and should be compensated fairly for it. Wood turning is an expensive endeavour. Charge a fair price for your services. You definetley deserve it.

    Be well


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