Taking a break from the workshop, the bench and tools, is always hard for me to do but absence supposedly makes the heart grow fonder and work is and always has been the anchor without which I find myself adrift. Of course, I am not the only one that feels this way. Many people are glad to get back to work, being with friends and colleagues. Today, we will film to close two more episodes of making a dining table. I have a few tricky bits to get through and having cameras trained on your working often intensifies the pressure quite a bit. For me, it’s not just about getting it right for others to see or to make me look good. If I just laminated a section, as for instance a rocker for a rocking chair, something like that, a remake can be several hours of work and even a missed day filming. At best it is frustrating and we just get over it and get on, but it can be draining if you let it get to you and your mood can affect the others around you. Time for a nice cuppa tea!
I’m glad for my work. Many here recently commented that work in the workshop had become their sanity in the face of a two-year pandemic. Unable to work away from home, see colleagues and friends, family even, shared space, had lessened and left some ill-equipped to cope so well with life in general as before. How often we think only of occupation in the negative sense of, well, the job we do. Perhaps the definition needs changing in our psyche or we need to revisit the word itself in the dictionary. We occupy space, we occupy time, we are occupied in something we do and our occupation is the thing we do in every realm of life including a hobby, our working, our socializing and our sports. When we speak our words occupy our minds and the minds of others. If we draw as a means of communication we do the same. Being occupied and occupying is a two-way street of intercommunication. This alone is why our working is so important to our well-being even when we do jobs we don’t like but have additional spheres of creativity that we do thoroughly enjoy. In my world, money is important because we actually have to ‘buy our way through life‘ minute by minute . . . bills must be paid and we must pay for almost everything we need, do and want even when it so often appears to be free.
Throughout the pandemic, workspace with hand tools, no matter the craft, gave people a new perspective on the value of work and working. For most, making (almost anything) provided one of the strongest means of coping with their fears, their anxieties and their loss of connection with the greater world of people. It became a multidimensional occupation they never really saw the real value in. Making in their workshops resulted in seeing something form from using their hands. This occupying was an all-absorbing immersion in the world of creativity, of learning of self-assessing and self-development. It made me feel ever more grateful for the gift of choosing a vocational calling early on in life.
As a lifelong maker designing life and the things that fill it, I am likely one of the most fortunate workmen. These past two years redefined life as we know it. It made us think of the things that truly matter to us and high on the list is our association with others. This week alone, and living in a small town, I knew and met six people in four days who had been infected with COVID. Last year I heard of such a thing at a distance way off somewhere but knew not one. How life has changed for us all. One thing almost did not change a jot for me and that was my making. Making is as much a part of me as writing my name, breathing the air, eating my food and sleeping when I can once a day. My world of making includes the designing of everything I might consider and includes sketching, writing, drawing, photographing and more. In these spheres, I seem to find cohesive ways to not only survive but thrive. Possibly, probably, maybe in my spheres of creativity, little actually changed and yet major things did.
My bench was tidied, made ready for this morning’s work after sharing my workspace with my daughter-in-law who came in to make a mesquite cutting board as a present for her dad. By this single action, she expressed love. It wasn’t within her comfort zone and she didn’t know that she could actually convert a blank of mesquite into a useable functioning item but she thought she could and she did. Today, the cameras rolled and I quickly became intensely focussed as I prepared to work on the final stages of the dining table for Sellers’ home. I needed about two hours more to finish up the joinery and thankfully I took care of clean-up and sanding of all the parts as I went along. Glue-up is near — and my favourite bit. After that, there is finishing and taking it into the dining area of the Sellers’ home kitchen. COVID did stop us filming this final section a day before our Christmas break, but we were so glad we did stop when we did because we all remained in good health and strength for the main part. Taking the much-needed break gave us a period of recovery and an ability to reset our coordinates.
At the house, we continued making good with an old G-plan collapsible dining table made of teak that almost drops the 18 square foot (1,67 sq metres) footprint to a mere three square feet (0.279 sq metres of floor space. The table is still amazingly sturdy, unwarped and very strong. For continued use, it needs only a little refinishing before I pass it along. Gateleg tables like the one I have are excellent value secondhand and might cost under £20 from a secondhand shop. I just looked on eBay and they go for up to around £150 but there are several under £50 and one at £20 if collected by the buyer. For small-space homes like the ones we have many of here in the UK, these foldaway pieces are amazing in spaces where they are necessary for occasional usage but occupy too much space for a permanent setup. In some homes, the living room/kitchen becomes the dining room for larger gatherings that come along a couple of times a year. Lift one flap and it’s good for three people and when fully opened it will take six to eight. What a truly credible but often overlooked element to furniture design. Good on the eye? Nope. And that is the secret to designing a piece that caters to every need. I did have an idea to remove one side of the flaps and anchor the midsection to a wall somewhere. That would work very well too.