Shelton said the Woodworkers, a group of about 50 local men and women, decided to focus on The Birdhouse Project as a way to inspire kids to learn more about the craft.
“The woodworkers group was going to the festival before that, and selling our wares and demonstrating woodworking. We felt like we needed to do a little bit more that might interest some young people in woodworking.”
Shelton said growing up, he was fortunate to have people around him to teach him about woodworking. He and the group now hope to do the same for others.
“I would like to see young people seeking out classes and experiences in woodworking or some other activity where they are working with their hands from scratch,” he said. “So many times, people say that they don’t have the tools or don’t have someone to model after. The birdhouse project gives kids an opportunity to try woodworking hands-on and meet people who are experienced in the craft.”
Each year at the Kentuck Festival of the Arts, the birdhouse project tables are set up in the middle of the park, in front of the Woodworkers Association booth. Demonstrations are held, and as many as 20 members put items up for sale – along with display pieces in the booth.
“It creates quite a bit of interest and gets lots of people talking about wanting to learn about woodworking,” Shelton said. “Each child takes their birdhouse home, and some people put them up outside and invite the birds in. Some take them home and paint them and put them in their room. It’s their birdhouse, they can do what they want with them.”
Shelton says that one of the most important tips he can give to a new woodworker is to work with someone experienced, like members of the Woodworkers Association of West Alabama.
“An experienced woodworker can teach a new person the right way to approach a project. They will get through quicker and with more success, which means they will they are more likely to continue. I teach a woodworking class through the University and OLLI, and my students are typically people that always wanted to try. Some figure out, ‘Nope that it is not something I want to do.’ And some take it and run with it.”
“You can do so much that is functional with wood working and wood turning. You can make furniture, jewelry, utensils, gifts. It’s just limitless.”
Shelton says that the birdhouse project is for kids, but it has attracted adults as well. It’s now part of the fabric of the Kentuck Festival experience, and a way to reach out to new artists and crafters.
“The Festival has always fascinated me in that – I drive by that location all the time – one day it is empty and the next day it is a tent city with people from all over the South and all over the nation. It is a great, tribal gathering. Artists who have made friends and come back. The diversity of artists and craft that is displayed never ceases to amaze me. I learn something every time I go. I hope I help others learn about craft and making things. It is just fun. “