Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 152, April 2018Welcome to Highland Woodworking - Fine Tools & Education Learn more about Highland Woodworking View our current woodworking classes and seminars Woodworking articles and solutions Subscribe to Wood News
Women in Woodworking - Meet Tahle Patton
By Andrea Ramsay
Seattle, WA

I am always excited to meet another woodworker who lives in my area. When that woodworker is a teacher, an entrepreneur, a lifelong learner and my neighbor I wonder why we haven't met before? This is what happened when I met Tahle Patton. Tahle runs her owns custom woodworking business and teaches woodworking at Bellevue Community College.

Tahle had the good fortune of growing up in the Pacific Northwest and spent a lot of time in the San Juan Islands, a strikingly beautiful archipelago in a little corner of the world. As a young child she was first exposed to woodworking in her grandfather's shop on Orcas Island. Later in her early 20's she moved back to the islands and had the opportunity to apprentice with a luthier. She has always had an affinity for musical instruments, guitars especially, so this was truly a dream. It was here where she fell in love with working with her hands and a lifelong journey in craft began. She spent over a year on the island learning and growing her love of craft.

This journey took on many forms for Tahle, one of them was ceramics. In life's true serendipity, her passion for ceramics brought her to Mendocino, California the same year that The Krenov School, formerly College of the Redwoods, Fine Furniture Program was opening. While her focus remained on ceramics, the school made an impression and planted a seed that would later grow to fruition.

Tahle became a high end hair stylist and worked for many years in this field. During this time period she returned to woodworking, taking classes near her home in Seattle, Washington. She worked her day job and slowly built a custom woodworking practice in her growing basement woodshop. Under the tutelage of her teacher, Ross Day, a former student of the Fine Furniture program at College of Redwoods in Fort Bragg, CA, she was exposed to the teachings of James Krenov and other woodworking masters as well as their philosophies. Sixteen years after seeing The Krenov School open, Tahle decided it was time for a life change. She applied and was accepted into The Krenov School's 9-month intensive program. She quit her job and moved to the Northern California coast. Here she learned from Krenov himself. This part of the coastline is not unlike the San Juan Islands, filled with folks who forged their own way in the spirit of the west. It is a rugged coastline where locals free-dive in bone chilling waters for seafood delicacies. In this spirit she was challenged and changed.

She spent 9-months growing her skills as a woodworker. Under the teachings of Krenov, her understanding of wood blossomed and her desire for mastery continued. She was completely hooked. Krenov was a proponent of the hybrid approach to woodworking, using both hand tools and machinery. He taught his students to have a reverence for wood, and felt woodworking should not be dominance over the material but understanding, respect and harmony. This philosophy guided Tahle and at the school she developed her own style.

Once she returned to the Northwest area, Tahle began her own woodworking business, designing and building custom furniture. She now has a shared shop in the Wisteria Woodworks building in Seattle, where she is inspired by her co-woodworkers passion and commitment. She enjoys the balance of her own space in a community. Tahle also teaches at Bellevue Community College, something that she has been doing for about three years. She teaches everything from beginning tool usage to design/build classes. This inspires Tahle as she is as much a designer as she is a woodworker.

Tahle discussed her dream of building out a shared space for all types of people and how one builds a community of like minded woodworkers. As a female woodworker she feels that we need to make ourselves as present as possible in the community, so that we are seen as solid craft people, period, and and are thought of first as much as anyone else. There is still sometimes a belief that we, as women, can handle smaller projects but not large scale work.

When I visited Tahle in her shop she was working on a personal side project, building a guitar, her first in many years. She is exploring her roots, her passions and her connection to her craft, her connection to the wood itself. You can find Tahle's work at her business website http://www.grainlabdesign.com. I soon expect to see Tahle teaching a wooden hand plane class at Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle, Washington. She is excited to continue sharing her experience and specifically to teach others to make the cabinetmaker's violin, what Krenov called the wooden handplane. I myself am ready to make a couple more of my own and to learn from Tahle.

Andrea Ramsay is a dedicated student of hand tool woodworking since attending Port Townsend School of Woodworking and completing their three month intensive program. She left the technology world in 2014 and is happy every day that she traded in her laptop for a chisel. She does commissioned work out of her shop in Seattle's Equinox Studios..

Andrea can be reached directly via email at andrearamsay@gmail.com and you can check out her website at www.andrearamsay.com and follow her on Instagram at @andrearrr.

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