Folks of Fairview: Boat Maker & Woodturner

anne ogg clear skin boat

Anne Ogg has lived in Fairview since 1990 after Hurricane Hugo forced her move from the Virgin Islands. At first, she worked in anne ogg woodturningsales and marketing; later she began teaching high school and college. Today, she works as Instructional Designer at the University of North Carolina in Asheville (UNCA), partnering with faculty to maximize efficient use of technology in the classroom.

Anne Ogg the Artist

She is also an artist. “Well, when I think of my woodturning self, it’s a stretch to call me an artist,” she counters with a chuckle.

Yet she teaches woodturning in UNCA’s STEAM studio, runs Spin-Sters, a club for UNCA faculty and staff interested in woodturning, and was recently elected president of Carolina Mountain Woodturners (CMW)—the first woman ever to hold this post.

“The first thing I turned was a honey dipper,” Ogg said, eyes shining, “It was like I had died and gone to heaven!” Heaven? Really? “There’s just something about turning wood at a high rate of speed that is very mindful and soothing.”anne ogg woodturner mini

Within a month of that initial divine encounter, Ogg had joined the American Association of Woodworkers, attended a workshop to learn the basics of the craft, and purchased a lathe. She specializes in miniatures: bowls smaller than a penny, candlesticks just over two centimeters tall, and other tiny wooden trinkets that are easily out measured by a stick of gum. You know: art.anne ogg mini wood creations

Plus, she builds boats—the life-size variety.

Anne Ogg the boat builder

“My brother was teaching kids in school to build canoes,” Ogg explains. She was visiting him in Maine and saw his works in progress. “You think I can do that?” she asked, admiring his work. He responded with conviction, “Yes! If you can follow directions, you can build a boat.” It was 2020 and the pandemic was well underway. She needed a project.

It wasn’t just the pandemic that prompted Ogg to find a new avocation though. In 2017, her husband of 32 years died suddenly. Shock and grief hit hard. But Ogg continued working full-time and she and her teenaged daughter found ways to adjust to the burden of their loss. Simultaneously, Ogg was caring for her mother whose health was failing. In February 2018, just five months after her husband’s death, Ogg’s mother passed away.

Anne Ogg grieving, but activeanne ogg working on clear skin boat

Grief can be a demanding companion, commandeering every stray thought. Thank goodness Anne Ogg knows how to stay busy. But then March 2020 came along and ushered in its uninvited guest; the world slowed down for everyone. Building a boat would demand complete focus, requiring precision and accuracy while allowing for creativity and design. It seemed like the perfect diversion for such an uncertain time.

“Anytime you can change something that seems static—I would need to heat up the wood to bend it and shape it—well that seems a little like a superpower,” she says, beaming. She ordered the plans and supplies and got started. She would finish the canoe with a clear vinyl skin and with any luck, have it in the water by summer 2021.

And so, the process began. Studying the plans and learning the craft, Ogg began the meticulous measurements and careful craftsmanship. Inevitably though, she hit an occasional snag. “I like to take shortcuts sometimes,” she admits. “For example, I had forced the frame onto the ribs in a couple of places. But my brother would have none of it and advised me to go back and rework it. He explained that the wood and the design of the boat are forgiving,” she says, musing, “That’s his word, ‘forgiving.’”

Anne Ogg, “Joy is the gift of love.”

Ogg listened to her brother and followed his direction. Recalling one such time, Ogg says, “I took a deep breath and cut. As I did, the wood popped audibly and the curve resumed its natural shape, no longer stuck in an awkward position.” Ogg’s voice wavers for a moment and it is clear that the boat was much more than a project to keep her busy.

“The transparent skin means you can see all the mistakes I made,” she laughs gently. “And sometimes that’s all I do see. But I don’t see that forced shape anymore. Now, there is a graceful curve—albeit one marked by a few scars—that enables the boat to travel straight in the water.”anne ogg clear skin boat

She named her boat “Joy.” Ogg says, “I learned from author Valerie Kaur [See No Stranger] that if you don’t love, you don’t grieve. Kaur taught me that ‘joy is the gift of love’ and ‘grief is the price of love.’” She pauses, the emotion washing over her. “Building the boat also helped teach me that. Working with my brother, focusing on the project, learning from my mistakes—the whole process. . . it was healing.”

Anne Ogg, a gentle superhero, travelling through life beautifully scarred and grateful for the journey.

This piece first appeared in our local paper, The Fairview Town Crier, where I write a monthly column called Folks of Fairview. You can read the Crier online here.

By Aileen MItchell Lawrimore

Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 35 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.