The Port Townsend School of Massage heads into nearly a quarter-century of continuous operation with a new director and owner, but Elizabeth Piglowski has a history with the establishment that dates …
The Port Townsend School of Massage heads into nearly a quarter-century of continuous operation with a new director and owner, but Elizabeth Piglowski has a history with the establishment that dates back to Fairin Woods, who founded the school in 1996.
“We used to be located uptown, but Fairin purchased this building in part because it afforded us more space,” said Piglowski, who noted that transition occurred shortly before Susan Sherman took over for Woods around 2001-02. “By about three years ago, Susan had already made the decision to sell the school, and she finally recommended I buy it.”
A former student of the Port Townsend School of Massage, who not only graduated as a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT), but also established her own successful massage practice, before she went back to work for Sherman as an assistant director, Piglowski felt confident she had personal experience with every relevant aspect of the school and the massage profession.
“Just as importantly, I wanted to make sure that none of the students would feel a skip in the school’s operations, as it transitioned from Susan to me,” said Piglowski, who took over in July of last year. “If there is a change in my approach, it’s that I’d like us to offer more community outreach. We’re approaching our 25th year in town, and I still hear from people who didn’t know we had a massage school in Port Townsend. I’m looking to benefit the local business community, get more involved with the Chamber, and join the underwriting of KPTZ.”
Piglowski takes pride in how the school already connects with the community, through its massages at the Wooden Boat Festival and the Rhody Run each year.
Although there were once other local schools to train LMTs, Piglowski described the Port Townsend School of Massage as “the last man standing” in that regard, and expressed pride in Washington state for requiring that massage therapists be licensed, since not every state does.
“As a consequence, other states look to Washington and the precedents we set in massage therapy,” said Piglowski, who called Washington “the crown jewel of high standards in ethics and training in the profession.”
Piglowski likewise lauded the variety of applications for massage therapy, in terms of treating relatively ordinary aches and pains, injury conditions, chronic pain and more, through disciplines ranging from orthopedic massage, through Swedish and Thai massage, to structural relief therapy.
“We can serve everyone from children to the aging,” Piglowski said. “It’s not just for fit people who are preparing for sports.”
Piglowski sees massage training as a plus for the area’s economy, since “you need more than retail and restaurants” in a business community, and she’s seen massage training draw students from far and wide, all of whom then spend their money locally, whether shopping, eating or renting places to stay.
“It’s not just new students, but also existing LMTs, who require continuing education to retain their licenses,” Piglowski said. “We have folks coming in from Port Angeles, Forks and Ocean Shores, because having our school here means they don’t have to go to Bellingham to get the same training.”
While Piglowski sees the benefits of massage therapy going hand in hand with the medical care provided by Jefferson Healthcare, she also believes it’s as much of an art form as the martial arts.
“We train students in techniques, but depending on your own body type, you’ll apply them uniquely on the table,” Piglowski said. “It’s like dance. I’ve taken the time to watch our students, because they’re all learning the same lessons, but the body mechanics are different each time. In applying the techniques creatively, they make discoveries about themselves. Healing starts with the self, and our students’ journey carries that healing out into the world.”
Leslie Tapper is one student currently enrolled in the school’s weekend class, who’s on track to graduate in November.
“There’s a touch deficit in our culture,” Tapper said. “Physical contact is wildly important to healing. I’ve worked with children, and they blossom with hugs. Adults need touch as much as kids. It’s an essential ingredient in all stages of life.”
Tapper was equally effusive in her praise for the quality of education the Port Townsend School of Massage has provided her.
“The amount of knowledge I’ve been able to soak up here is far more than what I’ve heard from other students of different programs,” Tapper said. “It’s so much information that I feel saturated. I’ve just been wildly supported by this school, emotionally, spiritually and academically.”
Johanna Perkins has been an LMT since 1975 and an instructor at the Port Townsend School of Massage since its inception in 1996, prior to which she’d served as a massage instructor in Port Angeles during the mid-1980s.
“I really enjoy teaching,” said Perkins, a former art teacher for grade school and high school students. “I love giving my students skills they can take home with them. I’ve always been more hands-on, whether it’s art or massage, and watching people learn is so exciting, especially because I can take home how those students adapt my lessons. Besides, I want to share this knowledge because I want good, skilled people working on the massages that I receive.”
Perkins agreed with Tapper that the value of touch is underrated by modern society, and believes it could help to lessen problems such as the opioid addiction crisis — but then, she grew up with a father who applied massage as part of his sports medicine practice.
“The first time I ever massaged someone was Hank Aaron, back when I was the doctor’s kid, visiting the team with him,” Perkins said. “He offered me a Baby Ruth candy bar if I would pound on his back.”
Visit the Port Townsend School of Massage at 1071 Landes Court, or online at massageeducation.com.