…or could it be?
Think composition and the one-line from a four-line poem that succinctly says a thousand things at once. It’s taken deepness in the processing where the image captured speaks from a handful of words. It’s not a common thing to find such treasure above jewels and precious metals; not one wasted word and nothing misplaced to sully the content. I make each piece to be just that. Not only the finished work is important to me but the whole process designing and making that expresses reflection, contemplation and the surrounding issues it takes to build the picture — more a statement of life simplified and well mapped. This process carries you along as something that conveys you from A to B; from raw wood, perhaps ill-formed, to refined. My design work embraces all such things including the unpleasant ones to get a result. You’ll know. Outcomes of thought, management, work. It’s the outcome of what I do. Has it created acceptable order and structure without stricture? It? What is ‘it’? Well, my life. My life’s work. The things I make. The grand design of not just what’s made but the making of it. The way its been made and the methodology behind it determines the outcome of plain thinking but then the willingness to shift and change if needed. Did I stop to think compositions into being? And then beyond that did I think about the tree severed from its rooted dependence, the earth? Did I cut judiciously and think about the severance such separation brings, the irreversible consequence. What were the ramifications in taking that tree and then too to bring my wood from source to benchtop and a piece so hopefully composed it would be acceptable for generations, decades and centuries?
I start with the tools on the bench before I begin a single cut. My drawing in my notepads set certain parameters but then the components must be detailed and outlined within fractions of a millimetre. But then it’s time for the tools. The tools must be totally in order before I begin. Otherwise I feel unsteady. I take the saws and clip through every gullet with a truly fine file stroke. Just one, a short 2″ long pass and no more, to refine the already sharp edges for the optimum sheer cut I must have. People, those who just copy and teach rather than learn and master and become, don’t think about the very tooth adjacent to each gullet as individuals and certainly don’t know what I speak of. The sheering of saw teeth determines the precision and look of the sides of the saw kerf. They determine the energy I use and need. With the teeth so filed they the plane the sides of the kerf, you see. I want everyone to see and know and understand things like this, my audience, I mean – those who want craftsmanship in their artisanry. The plane and chisel edges become restored to newness and so too the half a dozen pencils.
It’s more economical that way. No break in thought patterns and such. The bench is cleared now, clear of previous work, the prototype, tools and shavings. I’m ready to work on my composition. As a poem uses few excesses, so too my work at the bench. I want order for efficiency and also effectiveness. Two very different sides of the same coin but cohesive of course.
All the way through I clean as I go because otherwise the work becomes cluttered with too many extras and the meaning easily becomes lost. It’s not so much what I make that’s so important but how I spend my time making it. I emphasise ‘spend’ because its not just an investment like putting money into something. This is my personal investment of effort, energy, time, emotion. The things money never pays for in the same way a poet composing never gets paid for the outcome. Just receives a token payment. More a per diem.
People have in general lost something, direction maybe. The coordinates have shifted from a once constancy. From time to time I see young parents with their children, from infants to teens and then on up too, and in too many cases I encounter both halves in disconnectedness, perhaps even unliving together, but in the same sphere in a sort of isolation. That’s not at all all families, thankfully. Just a few. The reason I mention it though is because it can similarly happen to woodworkers focussing too much on finishing the project and missing the time spent with the wood listening for things, feeling, watching in an observational way and so on.
Those who condemn me for not using machines more don’t understand because in most cases they can’t. hand tools slow down the whole process of woodworking in the positive sense whereas many machinists think it’s the same just different. It’s not the speed with which you make something that matters but the amount you engage with all things surrounding the work, the working and so on. It’s as much emotional, spiritual and practical as just getting the work done and dusted and moving on to the next project.
Whereas I have been accused of ‘not living in the real world’, this again is always, always, from those who never took the time to know me and what I really believe. My world has always been so real in that I have indeed lived off my efforts working mostly with my hands. I don’t believe in making money, I believe in working for a living combined with living to work. very different than being ever driven by the almighty dollar. I think many, not all, are missing out on so much because the media always, ALWAYS, measures the success of people in the media by how much money they have, had or will have. You do not see many pages or paragraphs without the words millionaire or billionaire in them. Imagine if we all lived like that. I think I have spent more time redressing issues of speed with students who somehow want to get the job done and get it out of the way – done yesterday!
Stepping over the giant influencers and seeing them for what and who they really are is eye opening and I am not just talking about corporate giants but anyone who has become an influencer. Ultimately it is all too easy disconnect from living and loving the real people around us which depends on those who volunteer into it.