My work is focused on the appreciation and continued use of traditional wooden boats, and the preservation and sharing of the skills and knowledge needed to build wooden boats. These include American and English boat types, as well as the small boats of Japan.

My first chance to build a boat came in 1980, when I was a college student in the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program at Mystic Seaport Museum. As a volunteer in the Seaport shipyard I got to work with Willits Ansel building a replica of a Noank lobster skiff. After graduation I was able to parlay that knowledge into a job at Stone Boatyard in Alameda, California. A bit later I found a job at San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park where I worked in the museum’s Small Boat Shop.

In 1990 I left the museum and traveled to Japan. There I met several boat builders, one of whom would later become my first teacher. Since 1990 I have worked independently, building custom boats and designing and directing museum boat building projects. I also began writing about my work and research.

In 1996 I did my first apprenticeship with a boatbuilder in Japan, working alongside Mr. Koichi Fujii, the last professional builder of taraibune, or tub boats on Sado Island. This research formed the basis of my first book. I have now apprenticed with seven boatbuilders from throughout Japan, most recently in 2017, building eight types of boats. I am the sole apprentice for six of my seven teachers. I’ve gone on to publish three more books on the subject, including my latest Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding, the first comprehensive survey of the craft published in any language. See my Japanese Boats page for more detailed information on this work.


2017 Asian Cultural Council, New York City.
Awarded a $24,000 research and travel grant to study traditions of boatbuilding in Japan, China and Macau.
2016 The Freeman Foundation, Honolulu, Hawaii.
Awarded a $27,000 research grant to study with and document the work of the last builder of cormorant fishing boats in Gifu, Japan.
2016 Asian Cultural Council Ambassador Program, New York City.
Awarded a $6,000 grant to travel to Taiwan and research the boatbuilding traditions of the Tao people, and lecture on cultural preservation and boatbuilding.
2016 Lake Champlain Basin Program, Grand Isle, Vermont.
Awarded a $5,000 grant to support design and illustration work by secondary school students developing interpretive materials based on student-led research on Lake Champlain boats.
2014 Asian Cultural Council and the United States-Japan Foundation, New York City.
Awarded research grants totaling $25,000 to apprentice with the last surviving boatbuilder of the tsunami zone in Tohoku, Japan and document his techniques.
2014 Lake Champlain Basin Program, Grand Isle, Vermont.
Awarded a $4,900 grant to work with secondary school students researching the cultural history of the Lake Champlain Basin, focusing on traditions of trapping and boatbuilding.
2014 American Craft Council, in association with Balvenie Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Winner of the 2014 Rare Craft Fellowship Award, given annually by the American Craft Council in association with The Balvenie, a Scottish distillery, honoring people "who demonstrate a contribution to the maintenance or revival of rare craft techniques." Chosen from among hundreds of candidates nationwide, a panel of curators chose five finalists and one fellow. The award comes with a cash prize and a two week residency in Scotland sponsored by The Balvenie.
2013 Setouchi Triennale, Takamatsu, Japan.
One of over two hundred artists chosen from forty-two countries to participate in an arts festival for the Summer of 2013, building a traditional Japanese boat - a type from the Seto Inland Sea region - in a public venue.
2012 Kyoto Gakuen University, Kyoto, Japan.
Awarded a travel grant to address the symposium "The Importance of Rural Life; Development Through History, Culture and Nature." (Chiiki No Taisetsuna Monotte Nandoro; Rekishi, Bunka, Shizen De Machiokoshi).
2010 The State of Craft, Vermont Crafts Council and the Bennington Museum, Bennington, Vermont.
One of eighty-six artists chosen to display works in celebration of fifty years of the Studio Craft Movement in Vermont.
2008 Nippon Foundation, Tokyo, Japan, Center For Wooden Boats, Seattle, Washington, and the Asian Cultural Council, New York City.
Awarded research grants totaling $40,000 to study with a boat builder in Okinawa, Japan, documenting indigenous boat building techniques and publish my book based on my research.
2008 United States-Japan Foundation, New York City.
Awarded a $65,000 publishing grant for a book on my research on traditional Japanese boat building techniques.
2007-2008 Shelburne Museum and the Bard Graduate Center, Shelburne, Vermont and New York City.
Commissioned to build a Japanese tea cabinet, or chadansu, for the exhibit Shaker Design: Out of This World, which was on display at the Shelburne Museum in 2007 and at the Bard Graduate Center through the Spring of 2008.
2007 Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs (Bunkacho), Tokyo, Japan.
My book, The Tub Boats of Sado Island; A Japanese Craftsman's Methods, was honored as a significant contribution to the preservation of Japan's maritime culture. The book was recognized as the most significant factor in the designation of this craft as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Asset by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.
2005 Michinoku Traditional Wooden Boat Museum, Aomori, Japan.
Received a $10,000 research and publishing grant to write a book manuscript about the construction of a local fishing boat type. Publication pending.
2002 The Freeman Foundation, Stowe, Vermont and New York City.
Received a $175,000 research grant which allowed me to live in Japan for one year and apprentice with two boat builders. A follow-up grant of $10,000 allowed me to produce measured drawings of several types of Japanese boats.
2001 Kodo Cultural Foundation, Sado Island, Japan.
Received funding to research an indigenous boat type and write a book detailing its construction. My book, The Tub Boats of Sado Island; A Japanese Craftsman’s Methods, was published in Japan in 2003.

Much more information, along with references and photographs, are detailed in the rest of my website. Please feel free to contact me if you would like a price estimate for a boat or lofting, advice on the merits of various boat designs and sources for plans, or to discuss public education projects.

I hope you will enjoy looking at the site and I welcome your feedback. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Download my resume as a PDF file


Douglas Brooks
84 South Maple Street
Vergennes, Vermont 05491
United States
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