Des Black, native to Australia and regular keeper of the coals at Vector Space specializes in woodturning. Spending at least three hours in the shop every day since the age of 12, Des regularly produces signature bowls. Des also spends time enhancing the Bedford community by volunteering and sharing pieces with the Bower Center for the Arts. Those of us lucky enough to know Des or perhaps have experienced his mentoring on the lathe know that his passion for woodworking and his willingness to share his expertise are a valuable find in this world with too few teachers to go around.
Part of my work at Vector Space includes mining deeper and deeper into the culture of the makerspace and helping answer the question 'What makes a makerspace?' In a recent culture dive I met with Des to learn from him what I could about the lathe and about his role at Vector Space. After taking time to get to know one of the characters who make the space alive I’ve learned that Des is an incredibly dedicated teacher whose focus is on safety and longevity learning.
It’s a rare gem indeed to find a teacher who has chosen to diamond hone their craft and mentoring technique over the past 50 years or more. Building a character such as this requires breaking through barriers and clearing hurdles, of course. Des’s life experience as a maker began with his father at work together in the garage as early as the age of five. By age 12 his dad had him building his own working engine! Later, Des would go on to build his own home from the ground up in Australia. After all these years of pushing himself to grow as a craftsman his philanthropic nature hasn’t suffered; in workshop sessions there is no hiding his excitement to share his craft and his passion for mentoring!
Des shares some origin stories of his love for learning, crafting and spreading that joy…
“I am the eldest of 5 children. The youngest is a girl. From my initial memories dad ingrained into me responsibility and accountability and being the eldest also protector to my brothers and sister. At five I was his grease monkey that washed all the engine parts in kerosine prior to his reassembling. As I grew older, I was allowed to actively do mechanic type activities on engine parts, engines and gearboxes. At 12 that experience was tested when he gave me a well-used straight 6 engine and asked me to dis-assemble, clean, identify wear and determine best repair approach, reassemble with new rings and bearings and valve grind the valve seats in the head. Final assembly and startup. I worked on that engine many weekends and evenings with his coaching, but I did all the heavy lifting. This gave me great confidence in myself, and I developed very good problem-solving skills also. I have carried that coaching method and learning with me all my life.”
Des teaches workshops multiple times a year and teen summer programs occasionally, when he’s not out traveling the world, designing a sewing studio for his wife or donating his skills around town. Like a bit of coal condensed down after years of pressure we are proud to have a diamond in our rough and ready makerspace! Thank you for being a part of it Des!