I have designed everything I ever made and yet have never copied the design of another designer or worked from someone else’s plans since my apprenticeship ended in 1970. Everything I ever made sold within a reasonable time, thousands of things ranging from wooden spoons and spatulas to kingsize beds, armoires and newly designed credenzas for the White House Permanent Collection when President Obama was inaugurated.
The power of influence
Now I feel a confidence about my work, that it will be made well and that it will see at the right time. I suppose I have felt that way for three decades or more; that wasn’t always the case and especially when I was a younger man. I can remember phases of recognition when somehow I was accepted. When I was in school my woodwork teacher was inspiring. He advised me not to become a woodworker but by the way he worked he told me to become one. You see it wasn’t what he said that motivated me, words, but more what he did. I remember his thin frame, his thin gold rimmed glasses and his bony hands that drove the tenon saw into the dovetailed wood. His grip, his stance, his determined spirit that demanded. That was what spoke to me and stayed with me and bore into me in my formative years. I felt that Mr Hope recognizes something in me. He approved me.
When I was in my apprenticeship an old man with a dripping nose and a humped back in his seventies could work harder and longer than me. No one liked him because his nose dripped and ran. It didn’t really bother me because I knew he was old and he couldn’t feel it or see what everyone else could. But he could sharpen a scraper and he showed me how to do it to. Mr Chapman approved me because I didn’t laugh at him and I worked hard alongside him. Through the years, as I grew in my craft, I discovered that people liked my work more and more. One year a man asked me to design a chair. I designed it and the design became a best seller. The company I designed the chair for sold hundreds of them at about $1,200 per chair. My work became approved by people making my designs, copying my designs and even stealing my designs. We all want to use our work to find validation and lose sight that we can discover peace in our work alone, regardless of design, price or acceptance. It’s important to strive for this kind of peace. A peace that has no dollar sign and a peace we find as we lose ourselves in the joy of work. When you find it, keep a hold of it. Don’t sell it. Never sell it.