Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield, Vermont offers over 80 hands-on courses per year in design, construction, woodworking, and architectural craft and offers a variety of courses concentrating in sustainable design. Now in its 35th year, Yestermorrow is one of the only design/build schools in the country, teaching both design and construction skills. Our hands-on 1-day to 3-week workshops, certificate programs and semester programs are taught by top architects, builders, and craftspeople from across the country. For people of all ages and experience levels, from novice to professional.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Woodworking Certificate Student Hank Brakely Goes Krenovian!

“Live the life that you want to live. Don’t be unhappy in your work”     -James Krenov

Early in the Woodworking Certificate program, Hank Brakely was introduced to the work of master furnituremaker, James Krenov (1920-2009), who began his career in Sweden before moving to Northern California to start the Fine Furniture Program at the College of the Redwoods following a sudden explosion of popularity in his work, catalyzed by the Mendocino craft art renaissance in the ‘70’s. Hank quickly fell under Krenov's spell, taking heed both in the philosophy on life that Krenov prescribed and in his distinctive and elegant domain of design. 

For his final project, Hank was drawn to the way Krenovian cabinets worked and functioned. He decided that he wanted to make something special for his parents and felt a good way to integrate the craftsmanship and duly acquired design taste was to create a Krenovian wine cabinet. “The more you start looking at the grain of wood you are using, the more exciting it is to make perfect glue-ups. My goal with this project is to have all the grain-lines running from the cabinet down into the stand on which it sits and make it seem like it grew that way.”

Hank knew with certainty that his adult educational experiences needed to be focused on developing his interest and experience in working with his hands. For the last year-and-a-half, he has taken an array of classes at Yestermorrow, from Timber Framing to participation in the school's Certificate in Sustainable Building & Design. As he contemplated the Woodworking Certificate, he was skeptical at first of how it would fit in to meeting his expectations in acquiring refined woodworking skills. He has come a long way since then. 

“I had a friend come visit me last weekend from another woodworking school," Hank says. He was astounded how we have all the tools to build, say, a Victorian desk from a plan, which my friend was more accustomed to, but here the focus is on your work; you create something that has a purpose for you and has meaning to you.”

“Yestermorrow is pretty perfect for me. There’s no other place I have ever found that can at once give you access to some of the best creative minds in New England and beyond, who can impart the skills while encouraging individual expression.”

To see Hank's complete Krenovian wine cabinet, as well as the creations of his seven classmates, join us Friday, April 18 from 4-6pm for the program's final presentations and graduation.

-- by Nic Tuff

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

A Sphere-Making Jig Named Tom

Come up with a project that isn’t rectilinear. That was Meg McIntyre’s self-motivated mission for the Small Scale Design/Build segment of the Woodworking Certificate program. “I was trying to find a way to make practical furniture that had more curves and fewer edge elements, so I drew this sketch of a coffee table with stacked spheres. I asked [Program Director] Justin [Kramer] how hard it was to turn a sphere on a lathe and he said, ‘Oh, not so hard—takes well under an hour.’” Meg smiles and explains how four days later, she had her first sphere.

“I wanted to find a more efficient and uniform way of making spheres.” She held up an ash ball in the palm of her hand. “It’s pretty cool how you can calibrate something that is round with just your eyes and look — it’s round! But it’s not really round. I wanted to make something more uniformly round. I did some digging around on the internet and I found some people making various kinds of jigs, including a guy who made this crazy tablesaw jig to make a bowling ball.” Pursuing her passion, she got in touch with him to find out how he made his jig and to see if he could offer her his design. She explains that not only did he do that, but he took the effort to improve upon the design and, as Meg explains, “he came up with this idea that was more flexible, using a router instead of a tablesaw.” 

Meg has become obsessed with making spheres. “There is something especially weird and cool about making this round shape from the inside of a tree.” When asked what she is going to produce from this sphere-making jig, Meg simply states, “I don’t know,” revealing that the nature of her passion is material-inspired, rather than design-inspired. She sounds a life-long sculptor, elaborating, “I’d like to use them as building blocks—just think about bubbles and clusters of round eggs and caviar. I want to bring out those clusters into building somehow.” And so she built 'Tom,' her affectionately-named, wooden sphere-making jig.

Meg's path to wooden-sphere sculptor has been circuitous, as one might guess. She came to Yestermorrow having been a successful manager for a host of businesses and non-profits, including a micro-brewery and an art gallery. But after working at a desk and staring at screens for 15 years, she realized that she was tired and wanted to ”press the reset button” by participating in the Woodworking Certificate Program. “Much like the spheres, I don’t know what I’m going to do with it… but something. We’ll see as it emerges.”

-- by Nic Tuff

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Life and Death of a Structure

When I arrived at Yestermorrow for the first time in the summer of 2002, one of my first assignments was to join John Connell (Yestermorrow's founder) for a day to work with him shingling the exterior of the Yestermorrow treehouse. He would hold each cedar shingle up to the wall, draw a pencil line to continue the organic curve of the wall, and then hand it to me. I would jigsaw the shingle, then hand it back to him to hammer in. It was tedious work, but inspiring to see the care and attention given to each and every detail.

Photo credit Matthew Rakola

The Yestermorrow treehouse was a brainchild of John Connell and arborist Bill DeVos, and the first of what would prove to be many Yestermorrow treehouse projects. The treehouse was designed as an early prototype for a universally accessible treehouse and the unofficial launch of the Forever Young Treehouse organization. Started in the summer of 2000, the treehouse evolved over the next five years to become one of the flagship hang-out spots on campus, boasting a handmade hammock and an eclectic collection of furniture built by students over the years. The treehouse has hosted many a quiet nap break, gaggles of schoolchildren, yoga classes, and the occasional staff meeting.

Built and maintained by many Yestermorrow faculty, staff, interns and volunteers, the Yestermorrow treehouse has been a collaborative effort, and has continued to evolve with new additions and improvements from year to year. 

Photo credit Dean Kaufman
Since its construction, Yestermorrow has offered one of the only treehouse design and construction courses in the world, inspiring many students to go on to build their own backyard projects. Moreover, many of the people involved in building Yestermorrow's treehouse took the knowledge gained to other treehouse projects around the world, including Forever Young Treehouses, The Treehouse Guys, Stauffer Woodworking, Winvian Farm Resort and others.

Sadly, though, Yestermorrow's treehouse prototype must come down this spring after 14 years of enjoyment and learning. Last fall we discovered serious structural rot issues compromising the safety of the structure and since then have had it closed to visitors. After investigating what it would take to repair the structure, replace the roof, and rebuild the ramp, we've decided to deconstruct the treehouse and put our attention towards a new future treehouse on campus. This summer's treehouse class will hopefully help us identify potential sites and start the brainstorming process.
Photo credit Matthew Rakola

Prior to its deconstruction in early May we would like to invite everyone who helped to build the structure and who has enjoyed it over the years to join us for a memorial of sorts, to celebrate and appreciate the Yestermorrow treehouse on Sunday, April 13th at 4:00pm. If you cannot join us in person please feel free to send your remembrances to to be shared at the ceremony.

Kate Stephenson
Executive Director