Students in the Selkirk College Fine Woodworking Program need to look no further than the shops on Nelson’s Silver King Campus to find inspiration for what is possible in international contribution to the craft.
David Ringheim and Scott Stevens have both received accolades from the International Society of Furniture Designers’ (ISFD) Innovation+Design competition that was recently held in North Carolina. The two Fine Woodworking Program instructors captured top awards in the first annual event, with Ringheim taking the trophy in the Professional Dining Room Furniture category and Stevens capturing Professional Best of Show.
Selkirk College Fine Woodworking Program instructors David Ringheim (left) and Scott Stevens (right) have been recognized for their eye-popping work by the International Society of Furniture Designers at the first annual Innovation+Design competition.
“I am a designer/maker and to not build is disingenuous to who I am as a craftsperson, but even more to who I am as an instructor,” says Ringheim, who has taught in the program since 2015. “Students come to Selkirk College because of our reputation and the quality of students that we produce. For our students to see that I truly love what I do and that I am putting myself out there in the design world, I hope encourages them to do the same.”
Top of the Class Amongst Professionals
Ringheim’s beautiful dining room table was lauded by judges for its cantilever design, curves and suspended top. Called the Equilibrium Dining Table, the piece is almost eight feet long and features a black walnut slab that is 2.5 inches thick and originally cut on a steam powered mill in an Amish community in Pennsylvania that Ringheim was waiting a decade to use for the right project.
David Ringheim winning piece is titled Equilibrium Dining Table and features a black walnut slab that is 2.5 inches thick and originally cut on a steam powered mill in an Amish community in Pennsylvania.
A striking piece, Stevens’ design for his Little Leafy table was inspired by the natural environment. Measuring 18 inches wide and 36 inches long, the black walnut writing table has 10 sections that make up the top and are cut from the same piece of wood. The detailed work provided to the piece gives it a striking contrast depending on how the light hits it. Walnut inlays accentuate the veins of the piece, while careful sanding and sculpting allows the flowing, organic, natural influence to show through.
“As instructors, competitions like this keep us engaged and interested in the craft and challenge us to consider and redefine our understanding and relationship with design,” says Stevens, who is in his first year of teaching at Selkirk College. “This ultimately filters down to the students, both in the energy and enthusiasm we bring to the class environment but also by keeping our skills, knowledge and connections relevant within the industry. We hope that this acts as a strong impetus for students to push the boundaries of their design and manufacturing ability, all the while allowing them a platform to showcase their work within the industry and develop connections that may prove important as they build their careers.”
Providing Inspiration to Learners
The nine-month Fine Woodworking Program prepares learners for apprenticeship positions in the cabinet maker (joiner) trade or for careers as fine furniture builders. A powerhouse Selkirk College program in the School of Industry & Trades Training for more than 30 years, students engage in a variety of classroom and shop activities learning theoretical principles, concepts and theories of furniture and cabinet design in the classroom. They apply their knowledge in the shop where they engage in the construction of cabinets and fine furniture.
Scott Stevens was inspired by the natural environment for his winning Little Leafy writing table. Made of black walnut, it has 10 sections that make up the detailed top and are cut from the same piece of wood, challenging the viewing to consider the balance between nature and design.
Both Ringheim and Stevens are program alumni in the Class of 2008 and Class of 2017 respectively. They have extensive professional careers outside the Silver King Campus shops prior to arriving as instructors. The recognition by the ISFD is not the first time either men have taken home awards from international competitions and it won’t be the last.
“We take what we do very seriously,” says Ringheim. “I tell my students that we are in the business of making professionals. They give me a hard time about it, but I really try to hold our students to a higher level than they think they could achieve. One of the greatest disservices we can do to ourselves and to the next generation of our craft is to expect too little of them. Students, when challenged, almost always rise to a level that far exceeds what they originally thought possible.”
Overcoming Difficult End to Term
Ringheim and Stevens were supposed to receive their awards last month at the world renown High Point Market in North Carolina, but the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions forced cancellation of the in-person event which ended up being delivered virtually. Though denied their moment in the spotlight south of the border, the disappointment they felt was nothing compared to having classes adjourned in mid-March due to the pandemic.
“It hurts me to not be able to finish the year the way we would like and I am sure it hurts the students twice as much,” says Ringheim. “So much effort goes into the year for our students, they invest so much time, money and most of all energy into their projects. For them to not be able to complete projects is a real slap in the face. Our annual year-end show was slated for the end of May and this is the first year that it hasn't run in the 30-plus year history of the program. I will be inviting any students from this year’s program to participate in the 2021 Year End Show, but it likely won't be the same as having their own.”
The virtual Innovation+Design competition award ceremony that was held in May.
Furniture design and creation at a high level is time consuming, both Ringheim and Stevens spent more than 80 hours on their winning projects. Aside from the accolades, both instructors agree that the toil is worth it as they help show learners what is possible.
“We are passionate makers creating professional work, and we are always striving to achieve the best in both ourselves and in those around us,” says Stevens. “This shows that we are a community of makers and that we achieve our best when we are able to work together. This collaboration in design and making is an important aspect of our program, one that we are constantly encouraging our students to lean into and appreciate. It’s most certainly possible for an individual to arrive in this program as a student and launch a lucrative, successful career as a designer/maker.”