The Idea is Born…
About 3-1/2 years ago an idea began to grow in the deep crevasses of my brain. I wanted to start an online video school where I would have a variety of different lessons on how to carve particular projects – ranging from very beginning to very advanced. Since the type of carving I specialize in is the classical or traditional styles found in furniture and architecture, this was going to be the main focus for the school. Thus the name “Mary May’s School of Traditional Woodcarving“.
I had already made several instructional DVDs, and discovered that people were eager to learn carving via video. It’s the next best thing to being there, and much less expensive than taking a one-on-one class. Well, as happens quite often, my DVDs were pirated and were being offered from various other online sources. Speaking with others who also produced and sold their own DVDs, this seems to happen within 1 to 2 years of selling them. I still sell the DVDs on my online store.
- So… the solution… and one of the reasons I started in the direction of the online school. Make all videos available for a low monthly fee in a “school” format online. With this, there is no real incentive for people to steal the videos because the price is so reasonable. The videos would also be less available for “resale”.
- Another reason for venturing down this online school road was because I wanted to provide an easy way to learn to carve. I wanted to make it so accessible to anyone who had internet connection to start from the very basics and progress to more and more advanced projects. Whether a brand new beginner, or someone who has been carving for years, my desire was to offer something for everyone.
- And one more reason for wanting to make these lessons available is because I know what it is like to be a “starving artist”. Taking an in-person class can get quite expensive – especially if you have to travel to that location. For example, a weekend class can often be $230 to $300, plus travel, plus hotel, plus cost of tools. So a 2-day class can cost up to $1000 or more. I often meet people who are restricted by their career, have a young family, or are limited in their income. I would have loved to have had videos like these available when I was learning carving. If I spent my “spare time” watching instructional videos as a young person, it would have kept me out of a lot of trouble!
How do you start an “Online School”?
I began to research on the internet the possibilities of how to set up this online school. How hard could it be? Just a web site, add videos and ta-da! Well, within a few weeks, I realized that this was way beyond my computer skills. So I blogged about my idea and asked if anyone had any suggestions as to how I would start this.
Bob Easton, a retired IBM programmer, contacted me and said he would be interested in helping me with this new venture. Bob is also an accomplished woodworker and carver and was signed up to take my carving class at Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking the following month. We planned on meeting and discussing his ideas more then.
When the carving class was over at Kelly Mehler’s, Bob and I met at a quaint little coffee shop in Berea, KY a few hours before we had to catch flights for home. We discussed many ideas of how this school could become a reality (my main thought was “Keep It Simple”). Sometimes these websites can get so complicated that it’s difficult to get anything done or find anything.
So Bob took out a yellow note pad, sketched out a flow chart with a variety of steps of ideas we discussed, estimated that it would take about 25 to 30 hours to get it started, and then we went our separate ways – with many ideas swimming in our heads. Well that was nearly 3 years ago to the day, and Bob has performed absolute miracles in getting the school up and running, maintaining it, updating it and successfully making it as user friendly as possible. He has very patiently walked me through parts of the technical side of the school (he knows where to stop before my brain freezes). Bob not only is the brains behind the working of the school, but he has also been a great help to bounce ideas off, to walk students through any technical difficulties, and just an all-around cheer leader during this whole process.
The Technology Evolution…
I started with a used Standard Definition video camera – a Canon XL1. It was HUGE! And very intimidating for someone who has never filmed anything before. It was so large, that it kept tipping over with my flimsy little tri-pod. But it was a great camera for what I needed.
Then I added to my collection a small handi-cam where I could add an occasional second view – still SD.
I did all my editing on a MacBook Pro laptop with Adobe Premiere 5.
Then about 1-1/2 years ago I stepped up a little further and purchased an HD camera (Sony HDV Minicam) and another smaller HD handi-cam for optional second view.
The past 6 months – there have been a lot of upgrades:
- Hired an employee (my step-son, Caleb) to edit videos
- Finally purchased an Imac because my poor little MacBookPro was struggling with all the HD video (and Caleb needed a computer to edit on while I took my MacBookPro on the road with me)
- Purchased three 4K Sony Cameras so they are all compatable, all Ultra HD, and 3 different views (one from the right, one from the left, and one distance).
- Purchased professional studio lighting
- Recently upgraded to using Adboe Premiere ProCC for video editing
- Continuing to add a new episode every week – usually 30 minute to 1 hour long episode
With the various improvements and technical upgrades made recently (requiring much more time in editing), I have made the difficult decision to increase the price of the school membership. It will still be very affordable at only $14.95/month.
If you are a current member, nothing will change. If you sign up before July 1, 2015, you can sign up for the current price ($9.99/month) as long as you remain a member. Sign up NOW! Click here for a more detailed explanation of this rate increase.
I look forward to seeing how the school will continue to evolve and improve over the years to come. As technology changes so quickly, my goal is to try to take advantage of this and continue to improve every aspect of the online school.
I wish to thank all of you who have walked with me through this journey (and also thank you to future members)! THANK YOU! It’s exciting to receive feedback from students about the school and please add photos of your projects to the student gallery. I love to see your progress!
Sign up here for my monthly school newsletter where I share about recent and upcoming videos, news or updates about the school, carving tips and tricks, and a free template.