Mamie Minch's Uke-building Camp for young girls!

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Issue 314 September 20, 2018

In July 2018, Mamie Minch of Brooklyn Lutherie hosted a week-long ukulele-building camp for young girls in New York City. This “super shop class” gave these youngsters the tools and guidance to build and play their first instrument!

In this Trade Secrets video:
  • Smiling, happy learners!
  • These girls dive headlong into building, sanding, staining, playing!
  • Girls work and learn with pro luthiers
  • Bringing new people to the craft of lutherie!

Video Transcription

Dan Erlewine: Today's trade secret's not so much of a tip as it is a dose of inspiration. My friend and colleague, Mamie Minch, who runs Brooklyn Lutherie in Brooklyn, New York, along with her business partner Chloe Swatner, put on a ukulele camp this summer for girls to build their own ukulele, and StewMac sent them these Ukulele Kits that we have, with all the parts, plans and instructions, and with Mami to teach them they can't go wrong. Check it out.

Mamie Minch: I was thinking about myself as a young person, interested in working the tools and building. Probably was because that was happening in the house around me. I wasn't scared of tools and it was a thing that was accessible to me. So I just thought, wouldn't it be cool if some girls at this age, between 10 and 13, being capable with tools, working power tools without fear, kind of just knowing how to do things and having a strong sense of your own skillset. And if they were to want to do it as a hobby or as a profession, they can. Other women do it. I wanted them to see women holding space as professionals in a shop environment.

Building Ukuleles with StewMac Kits

Something kind of interesting. The tops are two pieces glued together. So what they do, it's called book matching. When you see a really fancy guitar, it's really obvious. They'll take one piece of wood, slice it in half, and open it like a book, and they'll glue it together.

Speaker 3: That's so nice.

Mamie Minch: It's the same on one side as it is on the other. It's cool. And when I put this color on, it's the only thing that I care about. Only thing that I'm controlling, is to be even. I'm not rushing, but I'm just make sure to keep moving.

Speaker 4: Something that I noticed right away is that all of these girls wanted instantly to do it. So eager.

Speaker 5: Parts of it are like a little tedious. Like yesterday we spent the whole day sanding it, but it was so fun.

Speaker 6: Yeah. It was so much fun.

Speaker 5: It's paying off.

Speaker 6: Yeah.

Mamie Minch: They were concerned about different things than I thought they would be. They were more perfectionist than I thought they would be, which was really interesting.

Speaker 7: It's not really showing up the glue here.

Mamie Minch: We'll get into two layers.

Speaker 7: Okay.

Speaker 8: Wait, should I do black?

Speaker X: Sure.[inaudible 00:02:33].

Speaker 9: I'm waiting for this coat to dry so that I can do another coat. And then maybe another, if it still looks pink.

Speaker 11: Over here, when I was building it, I got a little crack, but we used this cutting stuff to fill it up. So these edges aren't as beautiful. It still looks pretty cool.

Mamie Minch: Did you miss any bits?

Speaker 12: Yes. [inaudible 00:02:54].

Mamie Minch: All right.

Why? I felt like it was important for girls this age to be exposed to this is I want them to know it's something that's available to them. I want them to know that they can use tools, that they can do it safely, that they can feel like it's something that's in their purview, and then give girls a chance to work with people who are pros.

Speaker 13: In the seventh grade, they had the girls go to sewing class. I hated it. And all the boys were in the wood shop. But I did have the advantage of growing up with four brothers. My father was a carpenter. I was around tools.

Speaker 4: A friend of mine opened a guitar shop, and I was like, "Wait a second. Could I hang out? Would you show me how to do these things?" "Yeah, please. Learn how to do this refret. My hands are tired." And it was a definite...

Speaker 5: It's cool it's all girls. Because I feel like when you think of using tools and stuff, sometimes you just think about boys. It's kind of the stereotype. So it's really cool that it's like all girls.

Speaker 13: Sometimes, an experience that you have may have an immediate impact, and other times it may be kind of down the road where you begin to think about what you've done, what you've experienced, and what you liked, and how it affected what you did in the future. I think they already are very excited, and I think once it gets its strings, I think it's going to be a pretty amazing experience for them.

Mamie Minch: Under and away from us.

Speaker X: There you go.

Mamie Minch: [inaudible 00:04:28]. So you can see that [inaudible 00:04:28].

Speaker X: Wait, okay. Do you tie it like this?

Playing the Ukeleles they built

Mamie Minch: [Inaudible 00:04:36] Yes. I think the arts are so important, and music in particular, because everybody can participate in music. [singing]

Something you can do with your friends, you can do with people you don't know. So it's a point of connection, and it's fun. And I think that the world needs more fun. [singing]

Speaker 5: For me, music is kind of a way to express myself. When I'm feeling bad or something, I just go in my room and write a song and even if it's really crappy, it just kind of helps me get what I'm feeling out.

Speaker 14: It kind of brings people together in a way. There's a lot of just happiness and nice things that revolve around music, which makes it really important because there's a lot of really stressful things and annoying things in the world.

Speaker 4: Everyone deserves fun. Everyone deserves self-expression. Everyone deserves connection. Everyone deserves music, and a story.

Speaker 15: I've never built an instrument before, and that makes it really cool.

Mamie Minch: Do you like how it turned out?

Speaker 5: Yeah, I really like it.

Mamie Minch: Does it feel like you could do it again?

Speaker 5: Yeah, I could do it again.

Mamie Minch: You could?

Speaker 16: I never really thought about making-slash-fixing instruments, but after doing it for this week, I really actually enjoyed doing it.

Mamie Minch: So it wasn't really work all day?

Speaker 17: No. I mean we worked a lot all day, but it wasn't super tedious and hard. It was really fun. Because I've never gotten to actually make an instrument before.

Mamie Minch: It's tough at that age because you're figuring out just the very beginnings of who you are and what you like, and knowing that you can do it because of, and that you're not going to have to do it in spite of. It's all the difference.



Mamie Minch

Brooklyn Lutherie Co-owner

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