The Ecotone Colony

the ecotone colony

How carpentry and community can establish lands that matter…

By definition, an ecotone is a transitional area where two biological communities, meet and integrate. But in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Ecotone is a carpentry business with an apprenticeship program that serves to produce wood-working and life/community building skills to its participants. The most recent session took place this past summer and will conclude at the end of this month. Those involved received both knowledge about the field of woodworking and also gained wisdom on how to, properly use those new skills and work cohesively with others. Thus, they were able to establish a better understanding of their own individual selves and how to be a more useful and productive member of the families and communities that they currently stem from and will be apart of in the future.

“We think of our land and water and human resources not as static and sterile possessions but as life giving assets to be directed by wise provisions for future days.”

This quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt perfectly illustrates what this program is about: prudency (thinking ahead with knowledge and discretion) and practical providence (being able to provide others with what they truly need). Ultimately, we seek to equip young people with a “carpenters vision” – where others see trash, they see the opportunity to build something new and where others are powerless following destruction, they are able to help because they know how to construct. And regardless of what plot of land they end up on, their ability to self-govern allows them to carry liberty with them wherever they go. How does this happen? Check out the three habitual sayings that helped to carve out this summer’s apprenticeship program:

(1) “The Wood is the Guide/Teacher” (knowledge)

Unlike other materials, wood is not artificially made, each piece is unique and has its own specific pattern and texture – and as humans, we are exactly the same. And the more we kept sawing down and learning about the complexity of the wood, the more we learned about the complexity of ourselves and what needed to change in order to meet the needs of the wood. Those of us who had more of a sluggish personality were forced to push ourselves to be more brisk. And anyone who was quick-tempered had to face that impatience head on and become more fore-bearing. Ultimately, whatever came out of us that wasn’t beneficial – had to be dealt with immediately. Instead of running from our problems and shortcomings, we instead had to find ways to process them so we could continue to be a productive member of our community. Ultimately, while crafting the wood we also ended up crafting ourselves.

(2) “We don’t do it because it’s easy, we do it because it’s hard” (wisdom)

We could have did things the “modern-way” and just bought all of our materials from a store and used electric tools. But that would be too easy and would lead to always seeking out an effortless path! Instead, we used free pallet wood that we went out of our way to find in the neighborhood and only used a few manual tools (all under $100). But we don’t do this to brag, we do it so that we can strengthen ourselves and our skill set early on – so that we can be ingrained with the realization that in woodworking, and in life, it is most wise to NOT always seek the easy way out.

(3) “What is your Ecotone?” (understanding)

Every session, we would commune by having lunch together and chatting with one another about our individual lives, our thoughts on current events and simply being a source of encouragement for one another. These discussions really sharpened us and the realization that we were apart of a supportive community helped to pull out the best in each of us. From that, we could begin to grasp and comprehend our own individual ecotones: where were we at in lifewhere were we going? and why the heck were we here at this time with one another? Ultimately, our interactions with one another helped to sharpen our understanding of ourselves.

I was one of the members of the program and it really strengthened me in areas I did not know I was lacking in. I learned to open myself up more to accepting help from others and to speak up when I did not fully understand something. I’m a writer, so a lot of the work I do is often “in my head” and so working with my hands was something I was not used to nor very comfortable with. But Craig and his team were so patient and helpful that I now feel way more secure (than I ever have) when it comes to working with wood and construction tools. So much so, that I even want to start building wooden dollhouses and possibly selling them on Etsy. And in addition to that I am working on a new script and a major part of it has to do with carpentry. And this is why apprenticeship programs are so important – you never know what part of your current life it may strengthen and you also don’t know what what new aspects to your life might be brought in. And then being able to also form new relationships and create community – what can be better than that?

If you live long enough, you begin to realize that life is nothing but a series of transitions – a series of ecotones. And that is the ultimate purpose of this program – for each of us to have understanding of our own ecotone, to grasp and comprehend where we are going next in life and how where we are currently at/who we are around, is either helping or hindering us from getting there in a productive way. We seek to produce young men and women who are not thrown back and forth by the noise of this world. But are instead of a sound mind, and in position and ready to help their communities and families whenever needed. Being a carpenter is more than just chopping up wood, its being a community leader and a useful resource for others. With the state of the world becoming more unstable, we are committed to building up young people who are steadfast and can adapt to whatever land they are placed on.

If you know of any young people who you think can benefit from the Ecotone Apprenticeship Program, send us a message!

Learn More About Ecotone