We caught up with Johno Landsman, an alumni of several Yestermorrow courses and member of the Yestermorrow family here in the Mad River Valley.
What brought you to Yestermorrow and the Green Mountain state?
I went to Bennington College to study sculpture and music history. I had my one and only gallery show in my life and decided I never wanted to be a sculptor again! I left Vermont for a few years and was living in cities, but I came back in 2013 to take some courses at Yestermorrow and ended up sticking around.
What courses did you take?
The first course I took was the seven-week Natural Building Certificate. I was really coming to take the Semester in Sustainable Design/Build but NBC got me here sooner, so I started with that. Eventually, I also took the eleven-week Woodworking Certificate and became more of a fine woodworker, finished carpenter, and ended up being a metal worker for a while.
I even built a canoe here! I had done a little bit of boat building with Justin and then I got a VSAC grant to take the actual skin-on-frame canoe course with Hilary Russel. Years later, I still go to the WoodenBoat show in Mystic Connecticut and work with Hilary to sell his boats there.
Recently, I was working with some friends who I used to think were highly skilled craftspeople, and I was running laps around them in the shop. When I was taking courses, I never felt like I was getting that much better or like I was becoming good at a thing, but clearly I had become a lot more comfortable with every part of a shop. The living, breathing parts of a shop. I still come back to Yestermorrow every once in a while to do projects. I feel very at home here.
Tell us about what you are up to now.
After Yestermorrow, I started my own business. I’m an assistant for a couple of glassblowers. Great people - Spencer Kirk-Jackson at Salt and Sand Studio here in the valley, and Nicholas Kekic at Tsuga Studios a couple hours south of here in Bellows Falls.
Working in glass is just amazing - I did it when I was little and had been chasing it for year and years. I’m still a terrible glass blower but I’m a pretty good assistant. It’s humbling. It’s a tough atmosphere to come up in, but it’s really nice to see artists succeeding here.
I’m also a teacher. This past weekend, I helped teach a weekend workshop at Snow Farm New England Craft School with high schoolers from all over Massachusetts. Art teachers nominated 48 kids into the program and we got to work with 8 of them on glassblowing. I started blowing glass as a high schooler, so it’s fun seeing kids get fascinated around the same age as I did. I remember how cool it was to see a 2,200 degree furnace with molten glass in it for the first time and knowing you can just make everything and anything out of that.
What makes Yestermorrow special?
Everybody wants to be here. That just changes the dynamic of a group of people. Everybody is so invested, and it really makes for a deep learning experience. It’s a community, it’s a family. It’s a special, little place. That “little” part is important.
What advice do you have for potential Yestermorrow students?
Try it out! Do something little. See if you’re into it. Come with an open mind. Yestermorrow brought me back to Vermont and showed me what I was into it. All of these other opportunities in my life stemmed from this place and these people. That alone makes it worth a shot.