Paolo Riva: 'I felt completely immersed in the craft and I guess I had been looking for that for a long time.'

Selkirk fine woodworking students glow with pride at their year-end show (with video)

Brynn Archibald, Mike Legere, Tyler Barrett, and Paolo Riva talk about their work.

Two Selkirk College fine woodworkers show us their work from Bill Metcalfe on Vimeo.

The annual year-end show by the Fine Woodworking class at Selkirk College has become known as one of Nelson’s artistic highlights. The students produce results beyond what they thought possible, thanks to the mentoring of instructor Michael Grace and and his assistant instructor Dave Fraser.

Last weekend the Nelson Star went to the  show and talked to some of the woodworkers. These are their edited comments. All photos by Bill Metcalfe.


Brynn Archibald

I was snowboard bumming in Revelstoke and I started working in a furniture shop there and fell in love with woodworking.

The course has been amazing. These are some of the best teachers I could have hoped for. The level of creativity, the level of craftsmanship that we learned and were pushed to do was just amazing. And the best classmates, always hanging out, it’s been super fun.

I built a triangular coffee table, and I bit off more than I could chew on that one. Well I guess not, because I finished it, but it was a handful. There is joinery in there that I never even thought was possible or existed, but the teachers took me through it and that was the hardest thing I have ever had to do and it was worth it, so worth it. I’m proud, very proud of it.

I’ve got a job in a Kelowna building gift boxes and furniture.


Mike Legere

I was released from the Canadian military on a medical pension and that gave me the opportunity to come to school, so I came into the woodworking program with the idea of going into my shop and making some money at it.

I was 28 years in the Canadian military as a combat engineer. I did two tours in Afghanistan and one in Bosnia. And I did some domestic tours in Canada — the ice storms and the floods.

I went from 100 miles an hour in the military to two miles an hour, so I switched gears significantly. Learning woodworking has been very therapeutic, and managed to calm me down and slow me down.

The title on this piece is 20 Year Promise, and the reason for that is 20 years ago I promised my wife a dining room table. I came to the course and discussed with Dave about building it. And I went through the process of doing all the joinery, the veneering, the hand planing. I am very proud of it.


Tyler Barrett (from Fruitvale and just a year out of high school)

The course has been fantastic. I have learned so much, with everybody from different parts of Canada.

My piece is made of black walnut with hard maple. The biggest challenge was attaching the moulding to the top. I had lots of fine tuning to do, the mitres, had to cut it, turn it again, go back and forth to get the right angle with it.

I felt like I had a lot more to learn than anyone. It was nice to have peers to teach me.


Paolo Riva

It has been incredible. We are very lucky to have had Michael and Dave as our instructors. We are lucky to be the last ones, because they are both retiring.

The standard to which we are trained is very high, and the stringency with which they judged our work and helped us to move forward, it is very, very high.

The profile of the feet in my piece is taken from a classical Chinese furniture motif called the horse’s hoof. I wanted to include that with some curves in the design and I think that for me the main thing was doing the veneer on the top. I had never done that before and it was very rewarding.

The most challenging parts were the finishing touches. The edging around the top panel is very difficult.

I felt completely immersed in the craft and I guess I had been looking for that for a long time, to focus on developing these skills, thinking about my project 24 hours a day and getting a lot of work done on it. Total concentration and immersion.

I am going to go back to my hometown Winnipeg and pursue a career in furniture making and cabinetry.





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