Martin Saban-Smith is an experienced woodturner with a successful, entertaining, informative and inspirational channel on YouTube, as well as being active on social media with this turning.
Martin also developed and makes a wood finish called Hampshire Sheen which he sells from his own website and various retailers in the UK.
He lives in Hampshire, UK with his partner and family just a stone’s throw away from his current workshop, and that of the new Black Dog Workshop.
Having suffered from his own depression and anxiety problems since his divorce in 2010 (and historically), Martin has strived to overcome these demons with a succession of different occupations, trying to find something suitably away from his previous profession of photography, but equally as creative.
That was until one day in May 2014 when he had a go at woodturning. In the 20 minutes he spent on the lathe of Somerset based wheelwright Martyn Symes, Martin knew that this was it – turning was where he was heading.
Everything else was left behind, and Martin started turning on his uncle’s old lathe, and has done virtually every day since.
‘I guess, with all the hours I’ve put in since then, learning and turning,’ says Martin, ‘I have between eight and ten years experience compared to a weekend hobby turner.’
Being so active on social media, Martin has gathered friends and followers from all over the world and chats with them mostly on YouTube and via his Facebook page and the various groups he belongs to. By speaking to so many people, Martin discovered that many of them suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mental health problems and further discovered something else: Woodturning helps them with their problems.
The Black Dog Workshop: A Creative Space for Everyone
Keen to find some way of reaching out to help people with mental health problems like depression and PTSD, Martin, over a period of months began formulating the Black Dog Workshop.
‘Turning helps. It really does. I’m not trained medically at all, but I know it helps; I see it every day on social media.’ says Martin ‘There is something meditative about turning and creating something out of wood with your hands. Everyday worries and strains evaporate at the lathe. You hyper focus on what you are creating. The satisfaction when you’re finished is like no other feeling.
‘And, through the Black Dog Workshop, I can teach, demonstrate and share that experience with others.’
It’s not just those with mental health problems Martin is reaching out to. Everyone is welcome at the Black Dog Workshop, to come and learn to turn, have tuition to new and different techniques as well as meeting other like-minded people in an informal environment. And, with a special membership programme with amazing benefits, Martin is building a creative space for everyone.
Whilst the build and installation of the equipment takes place, the goals of the workshop are being formed. The Black Dog Workshop aims to (in no particular order):
- Promote woodturning to a wide audience through contact with local agencies and groups
- Provide turning workshops designed to develop and encourage self-confidence for those with anxiety, depression and PTSD
- Foster a sense of achievement for all
- Provide workshops and turning experiences for all ages over 16 years either in the workshop or ‘on location’
- Provide and promote regular wood turning demonstrations
- Provide coaching sessions for beginners and intermediate turners in a variety of disciplines
- Develop special ‘Digital Inclusion and Literacy’ courses
- Provide access to lathes and equipment for those without regular access to one through a membership scheme*
- Make the workshop lathes available for use to local groups and agencies.*
*Subject to completing a competency test.
The inspiration for the name of the Black Dog Workshop comes from one of Martin’s heroes, Sir Winston Churchill who said that his own depression followed him round like an old black dog. Whilst this particular black dog won’t follow you round, you can be sure that it will be there to help, to teach and spread the word about woodturning.