Laura Clark has hardly known a time in her life when she wasn’t building something.
Since she was a kid helping her parents refinish her childhood home, Laura has spent countless weekends learning her way around a construction project. Now a home-owner herself who is following in her parents home improvement footsteps. She’s also a natural people-person– a social worker by trade– which has made her a terrific addition to the Open Bench’s lineup of instructors. Laura heads up the Steel Toe Women series of classes, which are introductory sessions where women can teach, learn and craft their own projects in a safe female-friendly environment. It’s just another way in which the Open Bench exists to help the maker community grow.
While she was exposed to some of the building trades in her school years– woodworking, drafting, metalwork and welding — she said the expectation was to go a different route. “I loved doing those things but I think there was a societal pressure to be more feminine and those things weren’t feminine.” In her classes, Laura makes sure everyone gets to come away with something tangible and useful. Her first class, held this winter was a sold out four-week series where a group of all ages constructed handsome pine side tables. ” I think what worked really well was having each person kind of work on their own project and have a material item at the end of it. I think that empowered people to make decisions about the design of the project.”
“The bigger opportunity is the message it sends to the community,” Clark says. “That this is something women do, and want to do, and we should support them to find ways to help them participate in construction or wood shop and be in those spaces.”
The latest Steel Toe Women classes focuses on making an Adirondack chair, a project that seems simple, but has far more individual pieces that have to fit together. And its not just the student who walk away with new skills. The process has meant personal growth for Laura, too. “I’ve learned so much more, because to teach about it you have to sort of answer all of the questions, so I’ve deepened my own knowledge.”
Look out for more Steel Toed Women classes throughout the spring and summer. Have a class idea, or want to know what’s happening at the Open Bench Project? Sign up to get our newsletter, and check our calendar to see all of our new class sessions.