Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Two Things That Go Together like Glue: Philosophy and Woodworking?

by Angelina Sykeny ’14

Philosophy majors can go into a variety of career fields, but Steve Brown never could have guessed that his B.A. in philosophy would take him into woodworking. So how did he get there?

After graduating in 1985, Steve got a job with a local furniture company. He learned through the foreman about the North Bennet Street School (NBSS) in Boston. He decided to enroll and went through a two year cabinet- and furniture-making program.

As a NBSS student, he got the opportunity to help with a unique project: restoring a classic car owned by Ralph Lauren. He worked specifically on the trim, dashboard and steering wheel. The car won top honors at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and was the centerpiece of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) show “Style, Speed and Beauty” in 2005. After completing his studies at NBSS, Steve worked for Philip C. Lowe Makers of Fine Furniture in Beverly.

He also began teaching courses at NBSS, and was eventually asked to teach full-time and head the department. Since starting, he has lectured and demonstrated at various venues, including the Winterthur Museum and the MFA in Boston, and he’s written several articles for Fine Woodworking Magazine. He also sells some of his workmanship there.

In addition to teaching, he is currently the technical advisor for Rough Cut, a show on WGBH, Boston’s PBS station. The host of the show, Thomas MacDonald—known on the show as “Tommy Mac”—is one of his former students. Steve was on three episodes last season and will be on more this upcoming season. They hope to begin shooting in May.

Though Steve never anticipated that he would go into woodworking, it has been a great fit for him. He especially enjoys the process of planning, executing and completing a project with multidimensional challenges. Though philosophy and woodworking don’t seem like they would go together, Steve credits his philosophy classes at Gordon for helping him develop the critical thinking skills needed to build something. “It involves your mind as much as, and maybe more than, your body.”

While he isn’t at Gordon anymore, Steve is still involved with the College—his son Jake is a freshman this year. “In the past few years I have been thinking more about the connection my career has to my life as a disciple of Christ,” he says. “Someday I’d like to see what I could do to be of use to the overall mission at Gordon.”

Photo courtesy of www.thomasjmacdonald.com/.

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