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Austin Peay State University German professor finds peace during COVID-19 through wood working

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – After a long day of teaching in front of a computer screen, Dr. Beatrix Brockman blinks her red eyes, steps away from her desk and heads into the garage, with its concrete floors and overwhelming smell of sawdust. In this cavernous space, it sometimes feels as if she has stepped back in time into her father’s workshop.

 Dr. Beatrix Brockman. (APSU)
Dr. Beatrix Brockman. (APSU)

“You’re offline in there,” Brockman, an Austin Peay State University associate professor of German, said. “It’s too dusty so you can’t have computers or cell phones. And there’s no room in your brain for doom scrolling (on social media).”

In the garage, she turns on the air filtration and dust collection systems, takes a block of wood to the far wall and flips on the scroll saw.

With goggles protecting her eyes, she guides the wood around the saw’s thin blade, shaping it into her latest work of art. For five years, this woodworking hobby has provided her moments of creative flow and contemplation to recharge from her day job – teaching and mentoring Austin Peay State University students.

When the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic struck in the Spring of 2020, forcing her to teach the complexities of a foreign language and literature through the impersonal world of Zoom, the scroll saw in the garage suddenly became much more important.

A sculpture of Santa Claus. (APSU)
A sculpture of Santa Claus. (APSU)

“It keeps me sane,” Brockman said. “It’s Zen, following the line that you’re sawing. You absolutely have to have that, to step away. That and my garage are my refuge.”

In April, she shared this refuge with the wider community in the APSU College of Arts and Letters’ video series, “We Can’t Make It Without the Arts.” Her episode, “Intarsia and Fretwork for Work/Life Balance,” focused on the calming effects of this artform.



But her art is more than therapeutic release, a way of winding down after a busy day. In the five years since she began her woodworking, Brockman has grown into a gifted artist, winning first-, second- and third-place awards over the years at the RiverFest Juried Art Show. She takes occasional commissions and makes special gifts – including a massive, 52-inch walnut/maple bald eagle that she presented to the APSU Military Student Center – and this winter, the national Scroll Saw Woodworking and Crafts magazine will publish a pattern Brockman designed.

“I wish I would have gotten her the jewelry”

A 52-inch walnut-maple bald eagle. (APSU)
A 52-inch walnut-maple bald eagle. (APSU)

Brockman was born in Salzgitter, Germany, where her father worked as a carpenter. She later married a retired U.S. Army soldier who also likes to work with wood, making her (standing) desks and bookshelves over the years.

The couple eventually found themselves living in Clarksville, Tennessee, where Brockman, after earning her Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University, became a professor at Austin Peay State University.



One day, feeling nostalgic for Germany and the wooden nativity arches she used to see at Christmas time, she asked her husband to make her one.

“He said, ‘No, do it yourself,’” she recalled.

So, after a bit of research, she took some wood to her husband’s scroll saw and set to work. A few days later, she had her own, hand-crafted Christmas arch.


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