Townsville Bulletin - Townsville Eye - - Planner - WORDS: CHRIS SI L VI NI

It’s Tues­day morn­ing and there’s ex­cited chat­ter in the work­shop.

Stu­dents at work benches in­spect each other’s hand­i­work with great in­ter­est. Proudly they point out the finer de­tails of their piece: the grain of the wood, the clean joins, the smooth fin­ish.

In the air there’s the dis­tinct aroma of tim­ber, var­nish and freshly brewed cof­fee.

This is where they meet week af­ter week, slowly and with great care and at­ten­tion to de­tail work­ing on their lat­est cre­ation. Today it’s gui­tars, cel­los and ukule­les. Once that’s done it may be a sim­ple jew­ellery box, a new cof­fee ta­ble, or an im­pres­sive state­ment chair des­tined to be handed down for gen­er­a­tions. For the stu­dents who flock to Stu­dio Dubbeld’s wood­work­ing classes, the ap­peal is mu­tual. It’s their chance to ex­plore their cre­ative sides and learn an in­valu­able skill.

“We get mostly be­gin­ners but there is a broad spec­trum of peo­ple — cre­ative type peo­ple who are look­ing for an out­let,” owner Joel Dubbeld says.

“Most com­monly it’s peo­ple who have al­ways liked the idea of wood­work, but they’ve just never gone for it. They’ve pur­sued ca­reers in dif­fer­ent things and then come back to the idea of learn­ing how to do it.”

Apart from a few mi­nor car­pen­try jobs around the house, Scott Par­sons had never done any com­pli­cated wood­work. Today, he’s al­most fin­ished build­ing his own prized gui­tar af­ter a few short months of learn­ing the ropes.

“I’ve been play­ing gui­tar my whole life and I al­ways wanted to make my own and learn about the process, the com­pli­cated chis­elling and plan­ing, and choos­ing the right woods,” he said.

“The qual­ity of the gui­tars that come out of here are even bet­ter than the ones that come out of the shops be­cause of the level of de­tail you can put it be­cause it’s not made by ma­chine, it’s made by hand.”

With mod­ern tech­nol­ogy in­creas­ingly nudg­ing its way into ev­ery as­pect of our lives, there’s been some con­cern that tra­di­tional skills like wood­work would dis­ap­pear. But in­stead they’re flour­ish­ing. A quick search on Google or Face­book for any old-school hobby and you’ll get re­sults for pop­u­lar classes in your area and YouTube tu­to­ri­als for ev­ery­thing from knit­ting, sewing and cro­chet to gar­den­ing, bak­ing, cal­lig­ra­phy, pot­tery, and arts and crafts.

While most of us nat­u­rally grav­i­tate to­wards more pas­sive kinds of leisure ac­tiv­i­ties like watch­ing hour af­ter hour of Net­flix, psy­chol­o­gists say pur­su­ing a hobby, es­pe­cially one with a cre­ative el­e­ment, can be hugely ben­e­fi­cial, not only for our men­tal health but also our so­cial and pro­fes­sional lives.

Why? Well for starters, work­ing on a cre­ative project al­lows you to switch off from your day job.

You’re less in­clined to be check­ing emails when you’re off the clock or stress­ing about that big pre­sen­ta­tion.

It means you can re­set your brain and give your­self a fresh look at things. This can also be hugely mo­ti­vat­ing be­cause you tend to get less bogged down with the day-to-day monotony.

Go­ing to a class to learn a new skill can do won­ders for you so­cially. You’re not only meet­ing new peo­ple and mak­ing new con­nec­tions, but you’ve also just been handed a whole bunch of new top­ics for con­ver­sa­tion with friends.

Since cre­ativ­ity is kind of like a mus­cle, the more you work it the stronger it be­comes. In­creas­ing your cre­ative abil­i­ties means you also im­prove your prob­lem-solv­ing skills, which come in handy in all walks of life.

For peo­ple who have al­ready found their hid­den pas­sion in a pas­time that could be dis­missed as be­ing old fash­ioned, there’s also the added bonus of hav­ing a fi­nal prod­uct that you can cher­ish for years to come. That’s a no­tion that’s also back in vogue as we in­creas­ingly stray away from the cheap and mass-pro­duced in favour of high­qual­ity, hand­crafted items.

“It’s in­ter­est­ing how so­ci­ety’s come to a point where we’re fo­cus­ing more on grass­roots type things. I think that’s an ap­proach we see in things like food and in learn­ing old skills. Hope­fully that throw­away men­tal­ity is leav­ing,” Dubbeld says.

“A lot of peo­ple come in and say ‘I’m fed up with buy­ing cheap stuff that doesn’t last.’ We throw it away and buy a new one. They just want to work with their hands and have that sat­is­fac­tion of hav­ing ac­com­plished some­thing.”

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