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Loving Amateurism-Keeping it Alive!

These past few weeks I concluded just how much I love being with amateur woodworkers. No matter who they are or indeed their background, I enjoy all the more that sense of belonging amateurism alone has. Not only is amateurism seeing a revival attitude toward people learning to work with their hands and with hand tools, it gives me a sense of wellbeing for my craft that’s very refreshing. There’s something I can only describe as an openness and a transparency between amateurs that you don’t see elsewhere in the realms of woodworking. The group as a whole is really quite inclusive and when you find a group coming together there isn’t any standoffishness about those gathered. Rarely is it snobby or competitive, or even self-protective. That’s quite unusual with men but there you have it. Amateurism is alive and vibrantly kicking. I love it and my business card places me amongst their ranks. I did this years ago when I saw the distinction between true amateurism and then the others. P1160928Amateurs do what they do because they love the art, nothing would stop them and they pursue their craft at great cost to themselves. Amateurs are like sponges, soaking in everything they learn from whatever source and then filtering out the dross to get to the core of what they value most. Amateurs never work for money or at least money alone but actually do what they do without any great expectancy at all simply because, well, it’s humbling to learn anything and they love the act of becoming what they know they are not. Amateurs live their craft life with a certain edge-of-your-seat anticipation much of the time. I saw this with my new book, and then each new YouTube video and of course more intimately as cluster groups gathered around my workbench over the past couple of decades. The true art of course is retaining the status of being an amateur and eschewing becoming a professional when indeed your work become exemplary and someone pays you to make something for them. Now that takes true humility. That’s enough for me today and tomorrow and on into the future. Spend a little time outside the group of amateur woodworkers and you’ll start to know just what I mean.

11 Comments

  1. kenneth d graham on 28 March 2016 at 12:57 pm

    It has been quite a journey from the first time picked up my grandfather’s hand saw and cut my first board to make some small toy. The path along the saw dust trail has at times been frought with much discouragment, starting and stopping on projects that were above my head. With no real teacher I struggled along, seeking and desiring to duplicate works I had seen. First watching Roy Underhill , and gathering tools of ancient origin, I moved ever so slowly to a goal whose end I do not yet see. Attaching myself to the local woodworkers guild, I now work ever more confidently to accomplishing my goal. Making some thing that I find pleasure in , working with my hands. After reading your post for the day, I recall a word that comes from the book of acts chapter 18, where Paul encounters fellow artificers, the Greek word, is homotechnos. I hope I can be a member of such a group. Thanks for all you do in this community.



  2. Thomas Tieffenbacher on 28 March 2016 at 5:57 pm

    Paul,

    Interesting perspective. James Krenov also called himself an Amateur. Like you he wrote extremely well and his excitement , and love of wood inspired many. I read Krenov when I needed a mental lift as your words do for all they touch. I’m still working to make money and working with wood for what it does for me.

    Woodworking for me is overcoming my mentor “Murphy,” who is often unforgiving in his lessons. LOL! I have built houses (not for a living) and I thought those skills would translate to fine woodworking. Wow! It’s a different set of skills, and definitely more precision is required.

    I was getting too anxious about the end product I was doing for a friend. He is an artist now who was something else before. My friend counseled me about the process of creating and it helped bring me back to the present.

    Krenov called the piece coming together a “symphony.” That’s when it all works. Just have to put my thoughts and feelings into the work and not the end of it.

    Thanks for helping me keep my perspective.



  3. skilledno on 29 March 2016 at 10:20 am

    I’ve seen amateur work that’s simply amazing, I think the only thing that separates pro from hobby some days is attitude – some unfortunately have to roll the work out to make a living and others have the luck to be able to take their time a bit more (but have day jobs to enable it).



  4. Mike Ballinger on 29 March 2016 at 11:38 am

    Reading this post was like reading a description about myself.



  5. Brendan Gallagher on 29 March 2016 at 12:23 pm

    Hi Paul
    I make boxes and cabinets, (and stools from your design)! primarily for my own pleasure, but I sell them at craft fairs. If I were a professional I’d be bankrupt in a week. I do it as an amateur because I love it; I get back the cost of materials, but the joy I get from someone appreciating my work is more than enough. I’m fortunate in that I don’t need to make a living from it; I stand in awe and respect at those who do.
    Love what you do.
    Regards, Brendan



  6. nvmepeter on 29 March 2016 at 1:01 pm

    Paul, not pissing in your pocket, I know there are some great predecessors, and some current craftsmen/women.
    But it is my belief that it is you alone that has architecture the whole re birth of crafts, and immobilised the free sharing of knowledge. This is just one persons observation, and is properly your biggest gift the craftsman world. I tip’s me lid to you. Cheers Peter



  7. simsybloke on 29 March 2016 at 7:30 pm

    I love everything I’ve done with wood since the course last year… nothing is perfect yet, but I just love doing it. If I weren’t an amateur I’d be concerned because what I’m creating sure enough isn’t good enough to make a living with… I doubt anything I’ve made is sellable!
    But, I repeat, I’m just loving doing it!
    Thanks for all you’ve done for us.
    regards,

    Matt Sims



  8. Steven Bergom on 2 April 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Amateurism also exists in many other fields. Linus Torvalds, originator of the Linux OS kernel, once said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Linux, to me is a hobby. But it’s a serious hobby, which is the best type of hobby to have!” He has been at this hobby for 25 years with only brief vacations to revolutionize other fields of computing. Paul, you have a serious hobby and I’m so happy that you’ve decided to share it with us.



  9. Dragonfly on 6 April 2016 at 4:52 pm

    I just received my copy of Paul’s latest book. All I can say is “Thanks Paul!” – it’s beautiful in many ways.

    It’s clear and refreshing that Paul is genuinely concerned with the transmission of knowledge and passion about woodworking to the next generation. He just can’t stop teaching. He doesn’t seem to worry the conventional/professional worries e.g. publishing too much useful info for free on this blog might undermine book sales. I’m sure that others will also appreciate the varied benefits of both media.



  10. Marty on 6 April 2016 at 8:56 pm

    There are amateurs at most every level and craft be it woodworking, mechanics, cooking and on and on. I encounter snobbery at most all of them, but the vast majority do what they do for the love of it.
    Every now and then I’ll build something and start to think I’m there! I’ve made it to the top! The very next project quickly reminds me that I haven’t. I had the belief that I had chiseling mortises down pat until I forget just one of the many little details you offer in your teachings. One example was to flip the board end to end when marking out the mortise . I forgot that and what should have been 1/2 inch wide suddenly became 5/8 inch wide and not really even close to straight in. I hadn’t even found the center of the board so I was off by 1/16th on both sides of a leg of a bench.. It’s not a lot of fun to try to dig out 1/8 inch from the inside of a mortise..
    If someone tries to call me a professional I might have them seek professional help from a professional psychiatrist.



  11. Nadir Ralph on 17 May 2016 at 7:45 pm

    The time of artisans is upon us! Amateurs abound and I love it.



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