Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
Cloudy
53°
Cloudy
Hi 52° | Lo 47°

Easthampton woodworking school highlighted in national magazine

  • Greg Larson, left, director of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking, works with students Jesse Geary, second from left, of Haydenville, Adam Puzia of Stafford Springs, Connecticut, and Beth Paret, right, of Easthampton on Tuesday, September 18, 2012. Larson was helping students in the nine-month career training program in cabinetmaking to hone their tool-sharpening skills in the school's shop at One Cottage Street in Easthampton.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Greg Larson, left, director of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking, works with students Jesse Geary, second from left, of Haydenville, Adam Puzia of Stafford Springs, Connecticut, and Beth Paret, right, of Easthampton on Tuesday, September 18, 2012. Larson was helping students in the nine-month career training program in cabinetmaking to hone their tool-sharpening skills in the school's shop at One Cottage Street in Easthampton.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Greg Larson, left, director of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking, works with students Jesse Geary, second from left, of Haydenville, Bryant Palmer of Colchester, Connecticut, and Beth Paret, right, of Easthampton on Tuesday, September 18, 2012. Larson was helping students in the nine-month career training program in cabinetmaking to hone their tool-sharpening skills in the school's shop at One Cottage Street in Easthampton.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Greg Larson, left, director of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking, works with students Jesse Geary, second from left, of Haydenville, Bryant Palmer of Colchester, Connecticut, and Beth Paret, right, of Easthampton on Tuesday, September 18, 2012. Larson was helping students in the nine-month career training program in cabinetmaking to hone their tool-sharpening skills in the school's shop at One Cottage Street in Easthampton.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Greg Larson, right, director of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking, works with Bryant Palmer of Colchester, Connecticut, in the career training program in cabinetmaking at the school's shop in Easthampton on Tuesday, September 18, 2012.

    KEVIN GUTTING
    Greg Larson, right, director of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking, works with Bryant Palmer of Colchester, Connecticut, in the career training program in cabinetmaking at the school's shop in Easthampton on Tuesday, September 18, 2012. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Greg Larson, director of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking in Easthampton, offers pointers on tool sharpening to cabinetry students. Larson and his wife, Margaret, bought the school in 2008.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Greg Larson, director of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking in Easthampton, offers pointers on tool sharpening to cabinetry students. Larson and his wife, Margaret, bought the school in 2008.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Greg Larson, left, director of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking, works with students Jesse Geary, second from left, of Haydenville, Bryant Palmer of Colchester, Connecticut, and Beth Paret, right, of Easthampton on Tuesday, September 18, 2012. Larson was helping students in the nine-month career training program in cabinetmaking to hone their tool-sharpening skills in the school's shop at One Cottage Street in Easthampton.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Greg Larson, left, director of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking, works with students Jesse Geary, second from left, of Haydenville, Bryant Palmer of Colchester, Connecticut, and Beth Paret, right, of Easthampton on Tuesday, September 18, 2012. Larson was helping students in the nine-month career training program in cabinetmaking to hone their tool-sharpening skills in the school's shop at One Cottage Street in Easthampton.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Greg Larson, left, director of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking, works with students Jesse Geary, second from left, of Haydenville, Adam Puzia of Stafford Springs, Connecticut, and Beth Paret, right, of Easthampton on Tuesday, September 18, 2012. Larson was helping students in the nine-month career training program in cabinetmaking to hone their tool-sharpening skills in the school's shop at One Cottage Street in Easthampton.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Greg Larson, left, director of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking, works with students Jesse Geary, second from left, of Haydenville, Bryant Palmer of Colchester, Connecticut, and Beth Paret, right, of Easthampton on Tuesday, September 18, 2012. Larson was helping students in the nine-month career training program in cabinetmaking to hone their tool-sharpening skills in the school's shop at One Cottage Street in Easthampton.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Greg Larson, right, director of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking, works with Bryant Palmer of Colchester, Connecticut, in the career training program in cabinetmaking at the school's shop in Easthampton on Tuesday, September 18, 2012.
  • Greg Larson, director of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking in Easthampton, offers pointers on tool sharpening to cabinetry students. Larson and his wife, Margaret, bought the school in 2008.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Greg Larson, left, director of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking, works with students Jesse Geary, second from left, of Haydenville, Bryant Palmer of Colchester, Connecticut, and Beth Paret, right, of Easthampton on Tuesday, September 18, 2012. Larson was helping students in the nine-month career training program in cabinetmaking to hone their tool-sharpening skills in the school's shop at One Cottage Street in Easthampton.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

They left Silicon Valley’s technology industry for the Pioneer Valley’s crafts scene. But the Larsons say it was their business and technology experience that prepared them to run the New England School of Architectural Woodworking at One Cottage St., which they have owned since 2008.

“As it happens, woodworking skill is not necessarily what you need to make a successful school and business,” Greg Larson said.

“Between the two of us, we had this really odd set of skills that worked together to make this manageable,” Margaret Larson said. Before the couple bought NESAW, she worked in marketing for Hewlett-Packard and as a high school English teacher. Greg Larson was in computer engineering.

The school’s cabinetry techniques, which the Larsons say combine best practices from professional shops, are featured in the October/November 2012 issue of American Woodworker, a national magazine for professionals and hobbyists. A kitchen built by NESAW students appears on the cover of the magazine.

Work from the school is also on display at the Bing Arts Center in Springfield. The show, featuring pieces by students and instructors, runs through Oct. 10.

The Larsons’ relationship with nesaw, which was founded in the 1990s, began when Greg was a student there in 2001.

After a career in the technology sector, including 10 years working for Apple, he decided to explore his interest in woodworking. The couple moved to western Massachusetts so Greg could enroll in the nine-month career-training program in cabinetry at nesaw.

He was drawn to the school, he said, because of its reputation as one of the few professional cabinetry programs in the United States. He also liked NESAW’s community woodworking projects, which focus on large-scale installations for local institutions. Students have built tables for the Easthampton City Council chambers, for example.

In 2006 the Larsons moved from California to Massachusetts. Greg took a position with a cabinetry shop and Margaret taught at Granby High School.

Greg became an instructor at nesaw in 2007, and when the school went up for sale the next year the Larsons purchased it. Greg is the school’s director and the primary instructor for the career-training course, and Margaret is director of marketing and admissions. They employ several other woodworking instructors.

Wider audience

NESAW cabinetry techniques are gaining a wider audience this month, thanks to Greg Larson’s four articles in the current issue of American Woodworker, which has a circulation of roughly 285,000.

After meeting the editor through the New England Association of Woodworking Teachers, Greg offered him a tour of the school. The result was an issue of the magazine focused on cabinetry. Larson’s articles detail NESAW’s techniques, which have been developed in consultation with high-end cabinetry shops in the area.

Since buying nesaw, the Larsons have gradually made changes to the school’s offerings. This year they started a second school, called The Workbench, which focuses on hobbyist and children’s classes.

“We’re finding with the adults, but particularly with the kids, that … people aren’t growing up anymore with somebody to teach them how to use tools, and these types of skills,” Greg Larson said. “We’re getting a lot of parents who are excited … it’s a different kind of after-school program.”

While many of the classes offered through The Workbench were already available under the nesaw umbrella, the Larsons say starting a new school will allow them to offer a broader array of courses. Margaret will be teaching gardening, and they have begun recruiting artists and craftspeople from the community to teach other workshops.

Woodworking workshops through The Workbench are suitable for students of all skill levels, the Larsons say. Some students may have never touched a power tool, while others are experienced woodworkers looking to refine their skills.

Students who want to go beyond the hobbyist level can continue on to NESAW’s career training program.

That program accepts 12 students for each nine-month session, with classes held on weekday mornings. Tuition is $10,250. The Larsons say NESAW is beginning to draw more applicants than there are places.

Students in the program have diverse backgrounds, with some coming right out of high school and others looking to change careers, the Larsons say. The average age is late 20s/early 30s.

“What we’re starting to see more of are people who’ve just graduated from college,” Margaret said. “Either they’re having a difficult time getting a job in their chosen major, or they specifically chose a certain major knowing that they wanted to learn some cabinetmaking skills.” One of this year’s students, she said, is studying historic preservation.

NESAW graduates typically go to work for high-end cabinet shops. The Larsons say that 90 percent of those who choose to pursue a career in cabinetry find jobs in the field.

Legacy Comments0
There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.