Sunday, February 04, 2007
When a student asked her art teacher, Laura Waters, whether woodworking was really art or PE, it was a good question, and one that has come up before. The student's question arose from the amount of pysical effort required, but as we all know, PE is about much more than the expenditure of physical effort. The drawings at left are illustrations showing proper forms for Educational Sloyd published by Otto Salomon at Nääs in 1894. Woodworking, done with attention, builds a sense of form within the body and a relationship between the body and the earth even as objects are made. In order to cut a straight line, or plane a square edge, the student has to pay attention to posture and the movement of his or her limbs, hands and body, and study their relationships to the tools, the material and to the gravitational forces of the earth. It seems like a simple thing. When teaching my students to plane wood, I ask them to pay attention to their stance, the angles that they hold their hands as they grip the ball and tote (handle) of the plane, and their alignment with gravity. Woodworking builds self-awareness, and students can assess their own alignment by measuring the results with a square on the edge of the wood.