A Perfectionist in the Woodshop: Emily Blieberg, ’21, on Discovering Woodworking

Emily Blieberg, ’21, is a self-described “spirited, creative student-artist who likes to laugh.” Her older brother, Michael, ’20, attends Dublin, so prior to starting, Emily had certain perceptions of what her time at Dublin would be like; however, as she says, “you don’t really get to understand Dublin culture until you are here, until you have your first day.”

“The buildings are important, the location, but what really makes a community is the people,” she elaborates. “So it’s really interesting because you get glimpses—you see spaces and people from a distance, but then you get to really see it.”

At first, what surprised Blieberg was the power of the community. 

“I love the sense of community,” she says. “In a small school, you hear that you can get sick of the same people, but at the same time, it is so nice because you have midyear students, but, no matter what, you know everyone. Even if I’ve never talked to someone personally, I know they are there for me. We are all kind of there for each other.”

The second great surprise was a passion Blieberg never knew she had: woodworking. 

Emily Blieberg

Emily Blieberg

“I was honestly so surprised,” elaborates Blieberg. “I had gone to camps that had woodworking, but I had never taken a class. Once Michael snuck me in and I made this weird camel-shaped puzzle. That was my own experience,” she smiles.

“It can be very difficult for me to have fun while learning in school,” Blieberg says. “Academics—traditionally, sitting down for tests—that’s not always my strong suit. I can show what I know through oral exams or from listening to you and understanding and then doing something creative with it. I like making things.”

When Blieberg got to Dublin’s woodshop, she almost immediately felt at home.

“Even learning about safety in the first week was fun,” she says.

“I kid you not, if I am having a hard day or a hard class, I think, ‘I can wait two hours. Then I have woodshop. I can make it,’” she says. “ When I get to the woodshop, it feels like I walk in and walk out. It goes by so fast.”

“One of the things I really love about woodworking is that it is hands-on and creative,” she explains. “There are so many different things you can do. There are so many different types of wood. So many possibilities.”

Throughout the first few weeks of Woodshop, Blieberg started to see campus differently. 

“There’s so many things made by the Buildings and Grounds staff. I look at a table and I think, wow. This could have taken weeks. It is so beautiful. It must have taken so much work,” she says. “Being in Woodshop has changed how I look at everything.”

The energy and confidence Blieberg has discovered through woodworking has become integral in other aspects of her life at Dublin.

Writing and math don’t come easily,” she says. But that does not matter: “Whether it be dance, lacrosse, or woodworking,” she says, “I have been able to find different outlets for energy and different outlets to have fun.”

“I don’t like to try new things,” Blieberg admits.

“I really don’t,” she says. “Really. I don’t like change. If I can do anything to avoid change, I will do it.”

“But when I came to Dublin, I realized I hadn’t really done so many of these things, so many of the activities offered, so many of the programs,” Blieberg adds. “Everything I had to try. I couldn’t dip my toe in. I had to head-first dive.”

“I have succeeded in mostly everything I have tried,” Blieberg smiles. “I have been able to do it. I didn’t think I would get to a place where I don’t overthink, I just do it, I just jump in.”

“Basketball, lacrosse, and dance have been so much fun,” she says. “There is a competitive element. But it is not like your one performance defines you. Everyone makes mistakes. Even people I thought, ‘I didn’t know it was physically possible for you to make mistakes.’ Even those people. Everyone makes some mistakes, and I see it.”

This environment “helps build confidence,” in Blieberg’s terms. “I have built a lot of confidence in the things I do here.”

In Woodshop, Blieberg notes that she has had multiple difficulties. Most recently, she met a challenge with the task of creating a prototype.

Emily's Pen - 0227.jpg

“I was trying to make a Dublin pen. Mr. Bates asked me to make a prototype to show,” she explains. “To make a pen, you take a square piece of wood. Then you cut it to the size of the inside brass rim. There’s a special drill bit, and it makes a hole through the rectangular piece, and then you glue the brass piece with super strong super glue into the small hole that you just drilled. You make two of those. Then you put them on a pen lathe. It spins. You take one of your tools and go across it and shave it down. Usually, I have no problem with this. But I went too deep in the wood, and it broke the brass part. It was very stressful. I had never had an issue, and I became so flustered.”

“Mr. Pierpont [the Woodshop Instructor] was like, ‘Em, breathe. You are talented. You know this,’” says Blieberg. “I took a breath. I cleaned up my station. And I had to go to the next class, but I will be back. And I will work through it.”

“That’s a simple example, but working on bowls is another,” she adds. “I am a perfectionist. A big way to channel that energy is woodworking. You can’t perfect wood. You can’t change it. You can’t erase it. You work with it. This has been a bit of a struggle, but it has helped.”

A perfectionist in a woodshop, Blieberg is learning a great deal, and she is finding her space and her power in a place she never expected.

“You know how some people have a craft room or look to go into a corner and read a book?” she asks. “The shop is my safe place where I can be myself and be confident. I can get work done. I can create. I was, at first, concerned about safety. But it is a place that just feels so safe—getting to do what I truly love, with all of these great people and an amazing teacher. It is my favorite place. Woodworking is my heaven.”

She expresses gratitude that Dublin has this program and that Mr. Pierpont has made it what it is. She took the course to try it out, but she has been in it every trimester.

“I have been in there all year. Hopefully, I will be in Woodshop all next year too. Knock on wood,” she smiles.
As for future projects this year, she plans on building the prototype for a Dublin pen. 

“I’ve always thought about making measuring cups because my family is so into baking,” she adds. “We are a food family. We are foodies. We take ridiculous pictures of our food. Why not combine both of my passions?”

For any student who is interested in trying woodworking, Blieberg offers the following advice: “I would say, definitely try it. It will surprise you. There are so many things. I feel like it would be really hard for me to hear, ‘Oh, it’s not my thing.’ There’s so many different options, so many ways to approach a project. Everything is different. If you have the opportunity, definitely take it. Just make sure there’s still a spot for me in the class!”

Rachael Jennings