Saturday, March 21, 2015

Want to BE a Woodworker?

self portrait, Jacquelyn Smith

Whether you make wooden spoons, modern coffee tables, or far out executive desks, being a woodworker is interesting work on many levels. We do work with dead plant material which has many challenges. It's a nice mix of technical, creative, deliberate and happenstance. Want to try it out? Take a class at a community center or college that has some tools and give it a shot. If you are fortunate there may be a woodworking school nearby. If you get serious here are a few pointers to keep in mind . . .

Just when you are convinced you know most things about the work, something presents itself to show you otherwise. It doesn't really matter how long you've been at it.

There are very few shortcuts. When you feel the urge, resist. What's the saying . . ."do it right, once". The resources we use do have a limit. Your life and energy are precious. What we create can carry on and inspire many if we are present respectful of our work.

One of the most important skills to develop in music is listening. In woodworking its looking and feeling. Pay attention. Look all the time at different angles, lighting and distances. Look at your own work and all the work around you. Go to see furniture in shops and look online. Feel your work as you go. We can feel 500ths of an inch with our fingertips. Woah.

A woodworker will tend to make any job way more complex than it ever needs to be. Don't be afraid to do the abstraction process to dump your own brilliant ideas for something more basic.
Ebony Wallet by Jacquelyn Smith
Read, read, read. James Krenov (The Impractical Cabinetmaker), Sam Maloof, Japanese Joinery, and anything that interests you. They aren't gods but they were good woodworkers who made a living at this trade and taught many others. Times have changed regarding making a living but the work is much the same.

One of my favorite woodworkers is David Savage (Fine Furniture Maker) and another is Brian Newell. Both have work I like and don't like. Both push the boundaries of woodworking in their own ways. Both heavily value DESIGN.

If you work as hard at design as you do woodworking you will be on your way to contributing good work to our community and honor this valuable resource in the best possible way.

The most important thing I can pass on to you is this one simple thing:
WOODWORKING IS EXTREMELY PERSONAL. For instance, you will see people who have studied under Krenov continuing to make Krenov pieces. Seems to me Krenov fell short on one extremely important aspect which is to encourage others to make their own work. Of course he may have stressed this and the people I see repeating his work might just be afraid. It might feel risky to discover or uncover your own line or shape. I encourage you to find out what it is. Maybe you already have it. You will know when you find it. You can feel it and you will continue to see your line or shape in each piece for the rest of your life.

The 'personal' aspect relates to it all. Woodworkers love to lay down the law and say "you can't do blah, blah, blah." Rules add up so fast you soon find it difficult to do anything. Break a rule and find out what it's about. Push your own boundaries, open your mind, experiment and use your own common sense. There are so many ways to do things, discover your way. Keep samples around the shop for most of your testing, time will be the storyteller.

Above all else, do the work. No one will ever see the work we agonize over in our heads.  I just read a quote by Pablo Picasso . . .

"Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working." 

Mondrian Inspired Side Table by Jacquelyn Smith

Little Flame

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