Thursday, January 29, 2015

Draw What You See, Not What You Know

 Woodworking is a brutally honest work.

There are many truths in this life.  For me, the whining sound of a 10” carbide tipped saw blade spinning toward my face driven by a 3hp motor, is one of them. It is very real, tangible, and responsive.

The number one thing to remember when running wood through the table saw is to hold the wood down flat to the table as you glide it along the fence. NEVER LET UP. Dust and particles are spraying at your face; chips of wood are beating at your stomach and chest. Never let up. Once you commit to the cut you must stay true to your course until you have cleared the blade. There is no room for wishy-washy indecision. It can be life threatening and certainly is limb threatening with every cut. Hold it down and push the board through without turning away.  

When building, I have to do the same. Assemble and look over every aspect. Proportions, color, grain and texture either work together or fall short of intentions.

Side Table
I have to say that I try very hard to make the best possible furniture, art, box, whatever it is at the time. I do apply pressure to be honest with myself when I look at something I’m making. I recall in one of my first drawing classes my instructor would repeat in every class, “Draw what you see, not what you know” To see the thing in front of you, you have to look and be brutally honest.

Recently I was commissioned to re-create a box that I had made and sold years ago. This was a very strong piece. I really anguished over every detail. It took forever to make! Now, I have to make it as fast as possible, from memory. I gave it my best shot. It took long hours to do in a time crunch. I pulled it together and sent it off. They loved it. But back to being brutally honest . . . when I finish a piece I photograph it to make a record of what I’m doing. Photographing also helps me see what I made. I knew something wasn’t right. I looked and looked. Day after day I would look at the photos of the two boxes to try and see what the differences were. Finally I noticed that the shape of this one part was different. When I looked at the original, my eye was drawn to a particular curve. The second one didn’t have it quite right.

Instantly I realized that I had stopped looking and questioning when I was pre-occupied with time and the reality of getting the project out the door on schedule. I was copying my own work but not remembering all of the right questions. When all of this came together for me, I knew exactly what I needed to do to get back on track and it felt so good. Well, first it felt scary and kind of rotten, but when I could see the path back to my true course, those feelings disintegrated.

It takes deliberate action, thought and focus to face the truth of my life. The question worth asking every day is: are you really looking at your truth without turning away? Then, what are you going to do about it?

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Little Flame

Little Flame
Prize winner in the NWFW 30th Annual Box Show! SOLD