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This story from earlier in the week brought joy to my heart — and reminded me again that it’s never too young to take some time to pass on what you know to your children or young friends:

Talon Stammen, 16, puts a chisel to the maple round he’s mounted on the lathe in his grandfather’s workshop. On a nearby wall, a framed poster shows a wide-eyed baby Talon holding a hammer over a block of wood. His grandfather is standing behind him, watching carefully.

Grandfather Art Grabowski has had a big influence in Talon’s life, particularly as his first teacher in the art of woodworking. And he’s a big part of why, tonight, one of Talon’s pieces will be sold during the annual North Dakota Museum of Art Gala fundraiser, apparently making Talon the youngest artist ever in the auction.

The Grand Forks Herald goes on to tell Stammen’s story, from watching his grandpa working in his wood shop to whittling when he was five, taking carving lessons later, then building furniture in the shop with Grabowski, who’s now 96 years young. Stammen’s father tells another even more heartwarming story about his son’s interest in the outdoors and how it feeds his passion for wood.

Seriously. If you’ve ever thought “those young people just don’t care about tools and art” — or just need a pick-me-up today — go read the rest of the story via the link below. I’ll wait.

Lessons we can take from this:

If you’re a kid and you want to know more about making things or making things work, don’t wait. You’re never too young. Hit the library and learn what you can from books. (Stammen recommends “The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight Into Beauty” by Yanagi Soetsu [What’s This?] for those interested in wood.) Then pester your parents — and every adult you know — until they put you in the right, safe environment and let you have a go at things yourself.

If you’re a coot (young or old), you’re never too old to befriend someone just starting and share with them what you know — whether that’s woodworking, art, motorcycle repair, a passion for auto painting, machine work, or anything else. Get with the program! Practicing your art and skill is only one part of the equation. Passing those skills on to the next generation lies on the other side of the equal sign, balancing things out.

(Thanks, BotheredByBees, for the great CC-licensed photo.)

The Auction’s Youngest Artist [Grand Forks Herald]


7 Responses to They’re Never Too Young, And You’re Never Too Old

  1. Old Coot says:

    Chuck Cage: Nice post, thanks. I need to do a better job of this with my sons and this will help motivate me.

  2. PutnamEco says:

    I have always enjoyed volunteering my time to teach kids about the outdoors and woodworking,
    I do some of this through the Florida State Park Systems citizen support organizations. Blogged about one of the projects I worked on over at http://www.tool-rank.com/blog/Birdhouse-Build.html. I have also really enjoyed building picnic tables with the Boy Scouts for Dunns Creek State park. I always find it amazing how many kids have never picked up a tool. And how well they end up doing.
    It really doesn’t take much time or effort to really make an impact. Especially for the kids that have never had a chance to build anything. Even more so with a lot of the schools no longer offering any shop classes.
    I’m currently trying to put together a natural crafts series to help support a new environmental education center. We’ll build bird houses, bat houses, bamboo wind chimes, with a possibility of doing something with gourds and maybe even some basketweaving.

  3. Ivan says:

    My daughter has wanted to turn wood ever since she was little, so when she was 10 we bought her a cheap cummins lathe and she has had fun ever since. Problem is that I can’t get a bowl attachment since it has a strange 12TPI.

    Though she’s happy making candle sticks, table legs, etc.

  4. John says:

    Wow – this is so cool. My grandpa taught me how to rebuild a tractor engine and farm when I was a teenager and I have carried that all of my life as an engineer. My Dad taught me to build houses and cabinets. I am glad to know there is a boy out there that will excel in anything he wants to do because he has learned how to set and acomplish goals, and be passionate about an art.

    I have been trying to pass some of this on to my kids, and am finally getting a little interest from one of the three. Hats off to Grandpa and Dad of this boy – they have succeeded!

  5. Michael R. says:

    I’ve always been a fan of Matthias Wandel. He is the quintessential Maker and has been since he was young. His collection of projects over the years are very impressive:

  6. Mary Stammen says:

    Mr. Cage…. I am Talon’s Mom. Someone called me tonight to tell me about your Blog about Talon. Way fun to read. I am going to print it out to show both Talon and his Grandpa. Right now Talon is up on an island in Northern Minnesota building two log cabins. His plan is to make a woodworking shop in the smaller cabin. He is planning to use only traditional (non electric) tools. He calls us three times a day to let us know of his progress. We visit him on the weekends. When he is not at the island he is in his Grandpa’s workshop. He has many woodworking friends!!! All over the age of 65. So Thanks for writing about him. Thought you would enjoy reading more about this unique kid. Talon’s Mom

  7. Squidwelder says:

    This is awesome. I’m glad to see that people are still willing to teach things to younger folk. Being (humbly) one of the more experienced people in my shop full of 19-20 year-olds at the moment, I can attest that it’s the greatest thing to see someone who might have just been scared off by a project before you came along complete it because you showed them something.

    This story has really warmed my heart and given me resolve. I hope I can pass my trade on to my son like that someday. I’ll have to wait for him to be a little older to hold a stinger though, he’s still working on holding his light stick.

    It’s really awesome to hear from Mrs Stammen! Best of luck to your son!

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