Extending my creative workspace
We all have important phases in our lives. Landmarks if you will. I have had them since the beginning of my work life. My first day in the Hillgate, Stockport workshop was one of them. My life is quite different now to then. Instead of being a boy I am an older man and a master craftsman in my own right in my own Penrhyn Castle workshop. I have been for the past 36 years. Back then I had little wisdom, but youth and enthusiasm were on my side. Today I have wisdom and stamina. In my 60s I still work long days and hard. I have much to accomplish before my life is over and one of them is to pass all that I know onto the next generation. Some of that generation are in their 40s while others are in the 20s and 30s. I am inspired by their heartbeat, their raw energy, their challenge. The oak wood and pine inspire me. They wait for my tool’s cut. I wait for the right moment. Inspiration comes with every breath and movement and I shuffle my belongings around to intake the next batch of wood and students at the some time.
It’s an important phase in my life. In addition to my every day woodworking and furniture making, I have resolved to represent my work as a craftsman and the resulting research these past 46 years for others to learn from and I find myself now planning and developing spheres from which to enhance training for other woodworkers around the world. I love to work creatively and launch into new projects. I recently purchased a ton of wonderful European Oak, much of it quartersawn. It’s lovely to have wood in the racks and to be ably to pick out the best for the best parts and use up all secondary grade wood for secondary levels such as drawer backs and bottoms. Soon we will be discussing the unfolding patterns of project planning so hang in there and I will be walking you through all of the stages it takes to get the wood, develop the plans and make the finished piece ready for the customer.
Yesterday my creative workspace was extended. Students came for three days and mastered the basic common dovetail. Not every joint was perfect, but with each corner they perfected their skills and techniques and got used to the tools, sharpening, layout and so much more. They questioned some unconventional methods because newer convention had replaced the old conventions and they had never heard the old conventions. For instance, waterstones have now replaced conventional oilstones to become conventional sharpening stones. Does that mean that old oilstones were useless or didn’t work. No, not really, simply that there was a marketing strategy to give woodworkers something that wore out quickly. Some stones will never be replaced. So it is with techniques and methods, clamps, vises; saws are a better example. But these are issues for serious evaluation and discussion and this is what happens in hands on discussion around my bench in every workshop I do.
Here is Caleb Pendleton from Texas in the USA finishing a project. He’s using techniques he knew nothing of before this weekend. They are now his, as they are 3,500 other students I have worked with over the past 30 years. I’m extending my creative workspace to other households, businesses, regions and countries.
James Schumann made his box and shelf, but much more than that he took steps he had never really experienced before. They will all grow as the progress through the course and one day I hope to see their work evolve into their own designs.