Rick Stillwagon is passionate about making things. His career was built making cabinets and other items by hand, and even when he’s not at work, he’s often building something.
Whether it’s building ponds for fish at his home or welding together stainless steel to make liquor, Stillwagon believes in doing it himself.
“I’ve always made things,” he said. “When I was 9 years old, my dad gave me the keys to the shop. Kids today basically play video games.”
His passion for creating something out of nothing has carried him his whole life, and that passion is now available to be shared with others.
“We need more makers and doers in the world,” Stillwagon said. “We have a lot of consumer, but we need more makers.”
To pass on his passion for creating and making, Stillwagon recently created a nonprofit, the Oregon Coast Artisan & Trade Education Collective. His goal is simple - teach a new generation to work with their hands and create items for the consumers.
“I’m teaching the industrial arts,” he said. “My philosophy is you had a bunch of creative artisans who pretty much came up with everything, and you had an engineer who made it work. The engineer had the easy job.”
Stillwagon’s team is to use the OCATEC to teach children how to build things, but he is not limiting his work to children.
“I want to work with anyone who’s creative,” he said. “I want to take kindergarteners and first graders, because that’s when they’re creative. Some of them will be trades people, some will become engineers.”
To facilitate his dream, Stillwagon leased out the gymnasium at the Old Charleston School. He is collaborating with Alternative Youth Activities, which bought to school and leased the gym to Stillwagon. Inside the gym, it is packed with equipment for wood making, welding and other arts that Stillwagon will teach. Some of the equipment came from Stillwagon’s career, some other items were donated. All will be used to teach a new generation how to make things with their hands.
“We already got a lot of buy-in from the community,” he said. “We’re building an aquaponics system for the Boys and Girls Club. We’re getting a good response from the community. We’ve had several pieces donated.”
Earlier this year, Stillwagon worked with the Zonta Club when the club held a GRITT camp for girls interested in learning how to make something with their hands. Stillwagon said a second camp is being planned, this time at his Charleston location.
And working with girls, and women, is perfect for Stillwagon. He said his two daughters learned from their dad, and he is happy to share his knowledge with other women.
“One hundred percent of my students right now are professional women, nurses, doctors, some school employees,” he said. “Once we get programs up, it will change the demographics.”
Still wagon has big plans for the nonprofit, but he thinks the plans are attainable.
“One of my ideas is to build tiny homes,” he said. “We’re going to put in a rolling door so we can build a house and roll it on out.’
But until then, he willing to start small. Each new student will be taught to build a tool box and will go up from there.
“The goal is to encourage students to build something,” he said. “If we can create more manufacturers, that gives us a more diverse business community. My goal is to instruct our youth, where we can create a climate where they want to stay.”
Some plans already in place will include Oregon toolmakers coming in and teaching basics of running a lathe, as well as instructor who will teach how to make Japanese tools.
Still wagon plans to record each session, so the lessons will be available at anytime in the future.
“I don’t want to start anymore businesses, but I want more business people,” he said.
To learn more, visit www.ocatec.org.