When 60 year old Mary Kooymans opened her gift on Mother's Day this year from her children, she said she felt that "like most women, we deny ourselves the things we want. I am a Mother, my children are my only priority, everything else is just Meh, but I have always wanted a harvest table!" A retired Language Coordinator for Foreign Exchange Students, Mary spent most of her life making sure that the children in her life had everything they needed, we think it's safe to say that she puts others before herself.
We first met Mary the morning of her RPS.Co Harvest Table Workshop, this past week. She entered the shop all smiles despite being covered in rain and finding out shortly after that we were out of cream for the coffee... needless to say, her laughter and positive energy backed by hilarious movie lines didn't leave the wood shop all day. Mary was accompanied by her daughter Jill, who had organized the family gift and would spend the next two days by her side during this wonderful bonding experience. Mary grew up in Winnipeg, and spent the rest of her years in Ontario's GTA. We chatted that first morning about her experience with carpentry, woodworking and all things under the building umbrella. Her face lit up as she went into great detail about the projects she has proudly built over the years. The list goes on as follows: A stage and runway for Barbie out of melamine particle boards, a cardboard dollhouse, and last but certainly not least, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sewer hideout, again from cardboard. Although we were incredibly excited about her experience and may have chatted a bit too long about the Sewer Hideout, it was clear that Mary may not have had the experience you'd think one would need to build a Harvest Table... Good thing she came to the Rock Paper Scissors Studio!
Where no experience necessary is the number one statement for all of our classes, Mary would soon be on her way to building the most beautiful table with her own two hands. First she started by piecing together the planks that would soon become the table top, and shortly after that the gathering place for family dinners to last for generations. With a whole lot of patience, measuring, glue, screws, more measuring, a little mallet work and a lot of clamping, Mary's table top turned from 8 pieces to 1 in her first morning with us.
Leaving the table top to dry overnight, it was time to assemble the legs. We went with a hearty leg to go with her hearty table. Something strong, beautiful and bold just like Mary! We designed the X legs after putting a few of our favourite styles together, until we found something that would be perfect for a beginner, but have the look and strength of a master in the end. Mary and her daughter Jill spent the afternoon building, sanding, gluing and screwing the 9 piece sets together until they had perfected the look they wanted. With just a few hours to go in day one, they took a medium Golden Oak stain to their newly built legs. Mary chose Golden Oak to match the chairs she has in her Muskoka dining room, where the new table would go to live just a few days later!
As day two arrived, Mary shared with us that she was feeling quite weak in the arms after yesterday's sanding and building event. We were happy and proud of her, the way you feel a day or two after going to the gym, when maybe you didn't really want to go at all. A little sore, a lot tired, and secretly proud of yourself. With no time to waste, she powered through and got on to the next step, the top! We hadn't had the heart to tell Mary that second morning that the true sanding hadn't really started yet, and out came the belt sander... thankfully for her, Jill had returned to finish off the project and was feeling quite strong. After unclamping the boards and scraping glue off the seams, there was about an hour of solid belt sanding, palm sanding and even some hand sanding as the ladies went down the line of grits while the table turned from rough to as smooth as a sunset.
After a break for lunch we wondered if Mary would make it back to us, but sure enough with some good laughs and a few serious conversations about life, she was ready to go! Last step, hitting that beautiful top with some Golden Oak and putting the giant puzzle together. We were all pleasantly surprised as soon as that stain hit the table, Mary's colour choice brought out the most beautiful grain, and every inch of her hard work over the last two days could be seen shining brightly through. Assembly of the legs to the table top couldn't have gone any smoother, and with four strong bodies and a great big flip of that 200lb beast, she'd done it! Mary Kooymans, Queen of the Cardboard Houses and the 'I drop everything for my children' attitude. The woman who wore her "painting shirt" that she's had for over 30 years. The woman who dedicated her life to giving foreign exchange students everything they needed to feel comfortable and cared for. The same woman who said on day one "I don't know what I'm getting myself into" Mary Kooymans, Mother, Friend, Aunt, Wife, Grandma... Harvest Table Builder.
Our classes aren't for us, they are for the people that walk in our door wondering if they can,
who half way through always say "I can't" and who walk out the door at the end with the biggest smile on their face, full of pride and excitement and not only say "I can" but "I did" and our favourite line ever "I MADE THAT??!!"
We are just as proud of Mary as we are every one of the many hundreds of students that have walked through our door. Beginners, Teenagers, Children and our favourite... The Average Woman.