by June Pichel Cook
GREENSBORO – When walking into Laurie McBurnie’s Carpentry Workshop for Women workspace, one is immediately struck by a sense of calm, balance, harmony, and warmth.
The building itself, a repurposed three-sided shed, was once used to store wood and general debris. Now it is a wood-sided, warmly stained paneled space, ensconced in earth colors. A bench made of repurposed doors rests on one side; a restored worktable was found as a basement discard; another small workbench is made of repurposed odds and ends; a handmade table was built with students from “what was lying around.”
An old World War II poster of Rosie the Riveter was found in the shed’s walls and is posted next to an array of hand tools.
Repurposing of buildings, repurposing of wood and objects, and helping people to repurpose their lives is central to Greensboro resident Laurie McBurnie.
McBurnie’s Carpentry Workshops for Women are designed to “help people repurpose their lives through working with wood and building things.”
“It is the building of things,” McBurnie said, “that is similar to building new pathways of thinking and making new connections in your brain.”
“One person sees a piece of wood as something to throw into the fireplace instead of a workbench in the making of something that comes alive again. It has to do with perspective and helps people to shift their perspectives.”
The impetus for creating her Carpentry Workshops is “wanting to share my love of working with my hands and all the self-taught skills acquired over the years.”
She was inspired by Vermont Works for Women and hearing the comments from women, such as, “how do you know how to do this,” “I wish I could…,” “I will never be able to…,” or “I know nothing about…”
Her logo reveals a reaffirming, challenging mantra: a lone character stands on a promontory of “What we are” prepared to leap across the deep chasm to another promontory, “What we want to be.”
“I wanted to create a space where people could work in a sense of calm and feel free to explore and not be criticized,” she said.
The workshops will teach how to use hand tools – power drill, driver, sander, jigsaw, circular saw – and stationary tools like a table saw, miter saw, and router.
As a toddler, McBurnie’s father, a fine carpentry and cabinet maker, would give her scraps of wood and tell her to build something.
“I have worked with power tools for years, learning on my own, taking classes, watching videos, learning from others,” McBurnie said. “Having been a homeowner many times over, you learn to do things in order to be self-sufficient and independent.”
McBurnie works privately with clients and with the Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union’s Flexible Pathways program.
“The Carpentry Workshop,” she said, “is something of what I do as a coach by providing a safe, informal, non-judgmental and supportive environment in which to explore and expand. It gives the person room to develop self-awareness, confidence, and freedom to move outside a comfort zone. Skill building is a great way for a person to question beliefs about who they are and who they can be.”
The primary focus of the workshops, McBurnie said, will be learning safety and respect for tools, whether hand tools or power tools, and learning about what each tool is used for and capable of doing. Participants will learn basic knowledge about wood, joinery, and other aspects of working with wood.
“Basic carpentry skills can be applied to not only woodworking, but many Do-It-Yourself projects, such as simple home repairs.”
Class sizes are restricted to 1 or 2 people maximum; each session can be customized to that person’s interests and goals. McBurnie can be reached at carpentrycoachVT@gmail.com or 802-999-9702.
McBurnie holds a degree in Psychology from Washington State University and an Associates Degree in Nursing. She is a Certified Life Coach and holds an IPEC (Institute of Professional Excellence and Coaching) certification. She grew up on Long Island and moved to Vermont in 1977.