It’s September, the first week of school; the sunny classrooms are full of new students learning how to draw, how to make paste, how to follow instructions on a worksheet. But this is not kindergarten. It’s a new semester at Boston’s North Bennet Street School, where aspiring craftsmen come for accredited two- and three-year programs in piano technology; bookbinding; carpentry and preservation carpentry; locksmithing; and furniture-, jewelry-, and violin-making. North Bennet Street School, which started in 1885 as a trade school for immigrants, is nationally known for the caliber of its programs. “It’s like the Juilliard of furniture-making,” one student says, explaining why, at age 63, he’s just moved to Boston from Baltimore to enroll.
I am interested in the new students. What drew them to apply to a rigorous, fulltime craftsmanship program? Many have left successful careers in other fields to come here. What is it like to be a beginner again?