Shaped Up and Shipped Out

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WoodworkingClassST. JOHNSBURY- Being able to take woodworking classes in high school is a rare experience; an even more rare one is being able to sell finished products at a professional gallery.  This is the experience that several St. Johnsbury Academy students were able to be a part of.

Students in Matthew Stark's advanced woodworking class have taken their skills to the next level by sending some of their finished pieces, including cutting boards, to Gallery M, located in California, and receiving a profit for them. "I think it's amazing how they want students in high school to build cutting boards and sell them for money," senior Brandon Rodd told us.  

Stark, who is in is second year teaching at the school, began his career by selling his handmade furniture at Gallery M, and in response, the gallery contacted him about having his students send their work to California.  "I have a strong connection to this art gallery and he really helped me succeed, so he wanted to pass that along to my students and let them know they can make a living doing this," Stark said.

The response from the students has been positive.  "I was shocked," said student KaitLynn Lakus.  "It was inspiring to know that our work is going to be in California and bought by people so far away."  Student Tucker Bouffard adds, "It was cool to make things to sell for a high quality gallery and even make some money."  

The money the students get from their items goes back into the woodworking budget to buy more materials.  According to Stark, the cutting boards sold fast, at an average price of $50 per cutting board due to the fine quality of the craftsmanship.  "People are really looking for Vermont products because they associate fine products with Vermont.  The brand that Vermont has of strong quality work has to stay in this area and that's why I'm teaching students about that trend, and hopefully they'll be the next generation."  Stark also added that the cutting boards sold so fast because, "it's a great story, and stories sell."  

Being able to sell to a gallery is only part of the beneficial experience Stark's class offers; the overall experience of independence is what will help them succeed in the future.  "Being able to make something from scratch, I never thought I could take a piece of rough lumber and turn it into something that's actually useful.  I never though it would be something I could actually do."  

What the students gain in learning experience, Stark reaps in return.  "I love seeing the kids eyes light up when they create something from nothing.  They go from raw materials that have no worth, and they turn it into a beautiful piece and they step back and have a sense of accomplishment, and it's really neat to watch."