Creativity for me is a kind of protective sphere that I spend most of my time inside and a space in which I have all of the tools I use at my fingertips. The tools, the ones I use constantly, are pens and pencils stood in jars on my workbench, on my desk and on my dining table. They live there in different containers. I have support implements I sketch, draw and write with as enhancing leads, inks and pastels, backups for colour, texture and special line making. Art comes to us in different ways and when someone says they can’t draw a straight line I’m reminded of those who say they can’t saw straight or plane wood square. Truth is, almost nothing is straight in nature until man takes the raw and reworks it into straightness; the edges of tables, legs and shelves are made straight because we work and live life in squares and straight lines. Boxes are convenient and square ones are amazingly safe.
In my world, we are all born as creative sentients. We connect with our square world as well as we do with the randomness of the nature in which our squared-off lives sit. I love that I cut straight with my planes and chisels and that every shaving and chip I part off develops into curves that twist and spin in swirls, arches and curves as they spill, dive and arc in their separation from the host wood I am making straight to fit my design.
In my world of creating and making life work in wood there is no boundary between my workbench and my drawing board, my desk and my bookcases. I reach from one to the other and transfer myself and my work in an economic sweep of seamlessness. No one sees this when I work. I flit from wood vise to metalworking version and cut steel and file it with the same file I use on wood in either vise accord to economy and preference. Why? There are many times when a woodworking vise with wooden jaws holds steel more steadily and absorbingly than an all-metal one, even if it has plastic jaw liners.
When I needed steel for a plane blade or a chisel, I might take a worn-out, worn down file, heat it to a bright orange glow, let it cool naturally in the air, cut it, file it and rework it to a new shape and soon I have made what I need. Beyond that, I harden it and temper it again and 20 minutes later I have that unusual chisel for a fine detail I can’t get with any other I own. My drawings are often a hybrid of digital with coloured pencils, watercolour and pastel. Creativity is a mix of thoughts, a mix of mediums and a mix of crafts. Leather, steel, brass, wood and even plastic too. For my last plane and a new dovetail template ~i made the prototypes from wood with wooden blades to see exactly what the travel was on inclines of 45-, 50- and 55-degrees. How did that translate into depths of cut with a full rotation of the adjuster? Could one rotation make a millimeter or a half mil? I made the first iteration on paper and confirmed it in a made tool and found the two to be exactly the same. Confirmation of ideas and thoughts comes to life in a prototype and a tool or piece made into 3D has a feel about it you can never get from a bought thing.
Without this decision for engineering my life, I would not be creative. Creativity demands at different times within the sphere I have created and I would not be creative without my insistence for the sphere I live within. When an idea comes in a thought, there is always an immediacy to it and I must make some detail for me to work to, be that a drawing or a note or the use of a piece of wood or something I must make there and then, otherwise what I have will be lost.
People often say that I am lucky, but I don’t believe that that is the case at all. ‘Lucky‘ somehow supposes some kind of happenstance thing that shapes your future. And whereas I know that that can indeed happen, it was not luck that shaped my ambitions, aspirations or my future, now my past. Mostly it was decisions I made along the way and then taking responsibility whether they were good or bad. Where I am now is in the middle of a lived life and one that I love. My mind is actively creative all the time and never stops except when I desire the peacefulness of contemplation. My birdwatching demands stillness and quiet. I can duck out the back door and be at the lake in under five minutes walking. My woodworking allows such things others might call luxuries, but anyone can do what I do if they plan for it and engineer it. You must just choose what it is you really want and work towards the goal, that’s all!