Friday, May 07, 2010

woodworking runs in families...

The objects in the photo above are from my mother's estate and were made by my great uncle Charlie. I present them here in recognition that skilled trades are not just for those who choose not to go to college, but are of immense value to all. Charles Richards was a Methodist minister in Ft. Dodge, Iowa and did carving as a hobby. The mahogany corner shelf was signed and dated Dec. 25, 1944, while at least 3 of his nephews and one of his nieces were at war in Europe. Material expression of skill and attention is a transcendental act the value of which is not limited to those of a particular social class.

Having his work in our home as I was growing up was inspiring. To know that some of the objects in our home were lovingly made with skilled hands rather than being spewed from machinery gave my sisters and me a special place in the universe.

Our children are not easily lured away from their iPods, iPhones, and iPads and other iDevices. But, I was lucky. I can still feel my father's arms around me, helping me to hold the gouge as I turned my first wood on the lathe. Then as I taught my daughter Lucy to turn, I held her in my arms the way my father held me. Can you see how all this works? I can look back at my great uncle Charlie, and my uncle Ron, and my dad, and know that woodworking can run in families when someone cares about sharing their passion for woodworking with each new generation. It is not too late to start a family tradition of your own, but you will have to stand up to a culture of distraction in order to do so. These days, teens spend an average of 11 hours per day wired to the internet, gaming or texting friends. If we could just capture an hour or two each day for each in the woodshop, we would bring about a cultural renewal and advancement of intellect educational administrators and politicians could hardly imagine.

I spent the afternoon engaged in my usual friendly competition with the Chinese, making small inlaid boxes to sell through a few galleries. Most people in America aren't making anything anymore, so being a craftsman is swimming against a tide of well-made meaningless products in a sea largely unfamiliar with the sincerity of hand crafted work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And we should never give up. This "competition" with the Chinese factory workers who make so little money for their work has rewards every time someone appreciates fine craft work.

Mario