I don’t always find spaces conducive to my creativity. Mostly, I find I don’t so much create them but more end up in them. In my own home, a single noise can distract me from writing and a simple question can often become quite invasive. I have heard and met people who installed a down-the-bottom-of-the-garden shed with excited anticipation that something was about to change their productivity; that they would indeed become more highly inspired writers or woodworkers only to find that there was something missing and ultimately stressing because what was built was not being used for what they intended. I find myself inspired to write in an ultra-busy cafe. There I seem able to write undisturbed for long periods if I am disturbed I can get back into it by reading the last lines I wrote. In cafes alone, I can allow my thoughts to drift into new realms for a minute here and there and there I find the very sentence and structure to work with and build on. I can’t explain it, and perhaps this makes the worst stuff for you to read and I only think it’s my best, who knows? What I do know is that silence is rarely conducive to creativity in the same way that I seem to produce my best projects when I am under pressure to design a piece I need quite quickly.
Growing creativity is different than growing creatively. I always thought that these two grew alongside one another. I now know that my neatest projects came after I had mastered skills of different kinds and then, from those skills, I could launch into new ideas with answers to the unknown. I made a plane out of pine and used it for a while for one purpose and that was to hollow out the belly and back of a cello. I certainly saw the size of the cello that needed the scallop I could make with a large gouge and that is what I did straight off, but then I knew the scallops I had made needed more refining if the sound was to swirl freely within the chamber to exit the ‘f’ holes as sounds. The plane I made was made from a spruce two-by-four stud and it worked so well that we continued to use it on other bowed instruments too. It’s still going. When I made the hanging wall tool cabinet I used the same tool to make the coving to the top and we made a video on how to make the plane. Inventive creativity just grows. I had never seen or used a two-directional coving plane for such a task but boy did it work well.
The purfling tool most makers used seemed not to work too well although it did work. I designed my own and that did the trick. To then carve the internal lining that follows the awkward shape of the cello bouts with a knife took great skill to get the bevel exactly right and so here again I designed a new, as-yet-unseen-beyond-this-entry, knife. What triggers creativity more than anything else is of course necessity. Necessity prefaces new and creative design of every kind and no more is that more so than in the development of hand tools or machines. And it is not just tools. I often find myself developing a method of work or a technique to create something. The reason I developed sp many new ideas in instrument making was because for me the tools sometimes seemed unequal to the task.
In my creative workspace at work, it might not seem ideal but it really is and that’s because I can move fluidly between the areas that have gradually unfolded. This alone means that my creative space has evolved in the working of it and the working in it. I can’t always explain why I use one workbench over another or then too a bandsaw in one space and not the other. Usually, I keep both bandsaws with the same blades installed and usually, I change the blades out at the same time, and I always date the installation and use both bandsaws interchangeably so that the blades dull at roughly the same speed and point in time. I use the bench I built in 2009 in one workshop and then the one I built in 2019 in my garage workshop. Both work equally well–flawlessly in fact. I settled on my design in 1980 and have replicated it ever since. Little has changed really. It’s time tested and there’s been no need to.
I still draw most days. Big things and small things. Drawing helps me to see the as yet unseen things and my lining tool began with a sketch to show Joseph. Drawing is a skill that need not be neglected. I find even the simplest of sketches works as my most essential memory aid and even more so than a photograph. Mostly this is because the things I might want to make don’t actually exist. The sketches capture shape, orientation, proportion, things like that. See in the above how my drawing depicts a tool in use, the shavings falling and such.
My hope with this blog is that you will see how creativity emerges as you develop your own type and style of creativity or indeed you adopt one because it works. I had an art p[rofessor in my class 25 years ago who sketched details into her drawing pad and used it is a journal. There were no lines to write on and no dates to her drawing. She drew on any page the book opened to and if the page was already occupied a new, unrelated drawing went on there somewhere. This was way too random for me but suited her just fine. It was a few years later that I started to keep a drawing journal and some pages get dated and some not, but the drawings, writings, etc are all paged chronologically.