On my way in the darkness, pitch black, my bike lights pierce the overarching tunnel formed by the trees. It’s a mile long, this stretch. In the dark, up ahead, I see two bobbing lights side by side that at first seem like car headlights but then I see that the lights bob alternately and then that a third light lower down joins the others. ‘Ah, the two women runners and their dog.’ I say to myself. It’s 6am and I slow to make sure they know it’s me. We shout our ‘Hi’s!’ to one another as we pass…alongside their thank you’s for me slowing down as I always do. It’s a while to sunrise but the sun, lower than the horizon, casts a warm glow that bounces off the low clouds as I pass along. Turning the calm of the lake a mixed texture of pink and yellows. I’m pedalling at 13mph now and that will stay steady for the next four miles. When I get to work it will be daylight.
My new project was mostly still in my brain last night but the wood was bandsaw-ripped, rough and ready and half planed by the close of day. Thicknessing is simple and efficient and today I did thickness plane 40 pieces by hand to within the tight tolerances of a fraction of a millimeter I’m shooting for. Tell you the truth – I worked hard, systematically, so it went quickly and I truly enjoyed it.
The bench top fills with shavings until they ultimately spill to the floor in tangled heaps. The smell was as always pervasive and they in turn tell their own story by my disturbing the scents in my trampling. The pieces, about 30 of them last count, were mostly 42″ long and needed the tight tolerances I speak of, as well as a sharp plane. Jacks and smoothers work great to get me there, 4s and 5s, I mean. When I’m designing and making back to back like this is when I am the most in-the-zone person on the planet. I feel hurried by my own anticipation, which I think to be truly empowering in my physical development of a design. It’s the emotion of making that drives us and we shouldn’t deny this stimuli to empower us as we think through the steps, phases and stages. In this period we are looking into the future through our minds to engage the brain in the process of considering whether this or that will work or not. Also we are rehearsing where and how to use what tools, potential wood types, possible difficulties we might face and at what point. Especially is this so when it’s an as yet unknown process, which I still face on a regular basis.
As I work I plan ahead. In this case it was also inclusive of a quick trip to a wonderful local fabric shop, Masons in Abingdon, the like of which scarcely exists today yet at one time was fairly common to any mid-sized town. That’s before the likes of the craft centres that despite being fifty times the size manage only to stock a fraction of supplies because of the shelving and packaging and display stands with the addition of health and safety fears too. I wanted a cotton lining because of its natural property and also because cotton is so strong and hardwearing. The women there are always so helpful and want to know what I am working on. They know what I do as a furniture maker so whether it’s fabric, stitching cotton or foam and batting, they like to know. The thing I like about fabric stores is that they remind me so much of going to buy fabric with my mother in my childhood. She was a professional seamstress and dressmaker. I never knew a day when she wasn’t engaged making dresses for rich people from the wealthier suburb of Bramhall, Stockport. The ‘Remnant Shop’ in Stockport didn’t only sell remnants only, the rolls and racks were always full and ready to be flipped to cut a yard or three from. The smells, the sound absorption, everything touched my senses and there I was translated back to the 1950s and 60s.
Leaving my workbench in the evening was a wrench but I wanted my yard of fabric before they closed at five. I didn’t sweep up as I was running out of time, but there is always something about coming in at seven in the morning and switching on the garage light. I always stop and stare as I do when I leave in the evening and turn back to say good night to my workplace. In the morning I am on my own so I nod and say, ‘good morning‘ as much to myself as my workplace, workbench, tools and work. These are the first verbalised words of the day for me and the silence breaks in a welcome to me. The light floods the surfaces and I am reminded of exactly where I was last evening when I left.