Meet Andy Wallace

Meet one of our founding Board members, Andy Wallace, who shares a bit about the skills he brings to our organization, and why he volunteers with the Marine Mills Folk School.

Tell us a bit about yourself: 
I grew up in St. Croix Valley.  My wife and I lived out of state when first married, but after deciding to move back to Minnesota ended up building a house near friends in the Marine area.  We’re a bit surprised to find 23 years have already passed since that decision.  We have two children, a daughter in college and a son at Stillwater Area High School. 

You’re a carpenter and remodeler/builder by profession,  and you’ve used those skills to help the Folk School with space-related issues.  What attracted you to working with your hands? 
I have always found myself fixing and making things.  Forts, bicycles, $100 cars.  Not having a lot of financial resources as a youth is a great motivator, and I’ve always enjoyed the satisfaction of figuring something out.  I still remember the stories and problem-solving approaches of my 7th-grade shop teacher.  And I was lucky to have a boss in Alaska when I was a young carpenter who encouraged me to do high-grade work plus gave me the time to learn.

Why are you involved with the Marine Mills Folk School?
I find that volunteering helps me connect with community members and it enhances my feeling of belonging.  The cost is some of your free time, which I value highly, but I’m (mostly) able to maintain a healthy limit on volunteer time.  When my kids were little, I had to reduce my volunteering time, as I focused more on work and family.  Now that my daughter is at college I have a little more time.  I felt the Folk School was a worthwhile and exciting opportunity to re-engage with our community. 

There’s been an increase in the number of folk schools that have opened over the past few years, in the Midwest and across the country.  What are the reasons you think people are interested in taking classes in traditional folk skills?
I think because people find them fun, interesting and rewarding.  I think the process of learning and experiencing something is the  most valuable part of pursuing a new skill.  I’ve often thought that if I didn’t have the opportunities I’ve had in my life, I would hunger for a sense of satisfaction and sense of self-worth that comes from being able to rely on yourself, or from being able to create something useful.  I think that same sense is what people are searching for when they take classes or volunteer at folk schools.

What techniques or approaches do you use to help you work through frustration or particularly difficult problems that you encounter day-to-day?
Sometimes cussing enough to make a sailor blush is enough to vent frustration, but often walking away for a bit and clearing the head works, too!  I tend to build things in my head, to visualize the product, before actually starting the job, I find that helps me achieve my best results. 

Finally, any good books or podcasts you’d recommend?
I listen to The Moth Radio Hour on NPR for DIY/real experiences that are shared in a moving way.  Books I’ve recently enjoyed include The Hate U Give, The Song of Fire and Ice series and I’ve just re-read The Name of the Wind.  For budding readers, I credit Because of Winn-Dixie as the catalyst for my son’s voracious reading appetite, it is one of those perfect books.