by Sara Farizan
BOSTON, MA- I have to admit something. Kindles/Reading tablets and their ilk frighten me. I know, one day I will probably have to use one, since bookstores are closing left and right, but there is something precious about holding a book in your hands. The feel, the smell, wondering who has read the book before you, or, if you’re so lucky to have a first edition, to think about the history of that particular book and where it comes from.
That is why I find the non-profit North Bennet Street School so fascinating.
It is a school, founded on 125 years of tradition, that teaches age old basics to potential craftsmen/craftswomen in things like book binding, jewelry, violin making and repair, carpentry, jewelry making and repair, preservation carpentry and locksmithing and security technology.
NBSS began as an industrial school for immigrants in 1885 teaching trades and skills necessary for then immigrants to build a life for themselves in America. Now, the school has become a haven for artisans who look for hands on training in a craft they are passionate about, using new and old technology in a supportive environment to achieve their goals. For example a student today, making jewelry and being taught traditional methods, can utilize new computer software to help them with design.
The school is bringing old school to the 21st century, and doing it well.
Currently on display is an exhibit titled “Made by Hand: A Celebration of Exceptional Work from the North Bennet Street School” showcasing selected pieces from current students and alumni to show the breadth and depth of students, past and present. The crafts, curated by Associate Director of the school Walter McDonald, represent many of the skills taught and perfected at NBSS from jewelry to cabinets to violins. The detail and time taken on each piece is evident as is the passion of the students.
And it is the passion of the students for learning the craft that indeed makes NBSS so special. From full-time to part-time students, NBSS has a wide range of students of different backgrounds and ages, many of whom, decided to begin a new chapter of life after years in a certain field. From a former software engineer now well versed in cabinet making to a former research doctor learning how to make furniture, NBSS teaches everyone the basics and what is old is new again.
And if books are one day going to be a thing of the past, there has never been more of a need to preserve the texts we do have, making skills like book-binding/preservation more important than ever. This gives me a great deal of comfort that one day I will never have to switch over to reading tablets. Some things just never go out of style.
“Made by Hand” will be on display until May, 18th at 125 High Street from 8 am to 8 pm.