Weeks are landmarks of completion for me and of course for most people. We may or may not like it, but goals are often set in days, weeks and months, but most often people are governed by measured weeks. I just finished yet another nine-day workshop training the New-genre Woodworker here at New Legacy in my Penrhyn Castle workshop and last night, when I flopped into a chair at home, a felt that immeasurable sense of fulfilment you feel when the job feels a level of quality completion. I say immeasurable because who can quantify what I feel. I mean, one of the wonderful things about my work is, regardless of my critics who find fault with everything I say regardless of the fact that they have never met me, I have never taught a class or made anything I make for the money. I make because I love making and would make whether I get paid or not and I would always teach as I did for 20 years before I ever got paid a penny for it. I pay my bills from income I earn with hard work and that has always been the case. I have folded businesses or sold them because I felt the business was starting to own me and control me and limit me in my enjoyment. That’s what I teach too. Don’t just say money can’t buy you happiness, live it!
This morning I relaxed and walked the main street of Bangor thinking about last week and pictured the faces of everyone in the class. I know some, two, were returning to Sweden on a 10.30:am flight. They have jobs I think that they like but now they are equipped for so much more as they apply craft to their daily walk in Sweden. They can apply the art of working wood to their work and to their relationships in friends and relatives. Being a woodworker and in particular a hand tool woodworker engages all the senses without too much involvement fussing about health and safety. It means you can focus on woodworking not machines and the unwoodworking stuff. Working wood, and that means using hand tools for me, means you negotiate thoughtfully and with care and without the kind of governance you need for alternative methods. Your senses are freed in other words to co-respond with one another to make sense of how you work. It’s quite a controversial thing to reach back and pull out the best of the past, unite it with the present and then reach into the future with what you create. I like the risk of work I get from using my hand tools and I like the fact that my speed and my ability is then governed by the limits if my human body. I can push so hard but the tools, which are real tools, never ever push me. When I work with the machines, especially routers, I never feel that they were not pushing me.
I think Sweden has a rich and diverse history in working with wood and that it is preserved in the lives of those who pursue it using the methods I have taught throughout my life. Yes, it has its own methods and systems of education and like most countries it is losing what it has with each generation, but there is this remnant I believe will carry the reality of real woodworking in a campaign they cannot let go of and the reason that happens is because they invest in skill, making skill their own and preserving it for others – their children and grandchildren, their extended family and friends and their work mates (now called colleagues and associates – how detached and unreal is that, I ask you? No wonder these terms seem so politically calculated and soulless).