Sunday, July 15, 2007

I will be teaching a class with the Diablo Wood Workers in California in two weeks on Furniture design and the making of a child's rocking chair and will be using the blog to prepare. Design has always interested me, particularly as it relates to personal creativity. The drawing at left, and the essay below are from my first book Creating Beautiful Boxes With Inlay Techniques and are my attempt to explain the sources of personal inspiration. In essence, inspiration is the first step in the process of design and I hope that this essay helps in the beginnings of our exploration.


The drawing above shows a complex set of relationships, within which each of us as a woodworker is unique. We approach our work from a particular focus or set of values. While one of us may be very focused on his tools and the enjoyment he derives from having and using them, another woodworker may be more interested in the materials he uses; still another may be thinking of a small business to supplement his income, or of finding a way of having nice things in the home without having to pay so much for them, and the pride of accomplishment. I am not implying that any particular focus is correct. I believe that we can become better woodworkers by becoming better acquainted with ourselves as woodworkers, knowing our own values enough to establish a more confident direction in our work, and to thereby express more of our own natures in the work we do with wood. We also differ in levels of motivation, self-confidence and experience. Opportunity (in the drawing) is my way of describing the encouragement we receive from our environment to do our work. For an amateur, this encouragement may be a spouse or grandchildren with a long list of desires, encouraging our time in the shop and allowing our purchase of the tools and materials necessary for our work. It might take the form of being given the opportunity to work with a particularly rare and beautiful piece of wood, or of finding and falling in love with an ancient band saw, or being given an old plane. For the professional, opportunity could take the form of a market for one's work, providing enough economic return and encouragement to continue. Each woodworker also finds himself or herself in a relationship between tradition and innovation. Tradition is the relationship with other woodworkers, past or present, the way things are done or were done. Innovation is the relationship with the unknown and vast uncharted world of possibilities. It is ironic that today, with the widespread use of the router to do every conceivable woodworking operation, it has become innovative to learn what was traditional in woodworking, the use of hand planes and other non-electrical woodworking tools, It is in the balance between tradition and innovation that real creativity takes place. True creativity is not the result of trying to be different, but of allowing one's own unique values within the complex matrix of relationships to be expressed in one's work. It might come from a woodworker's special relationship with a species of wood, or a particular method of work or with a favorite tool. It can center around one's special loving relationship for a wife or girlfriend, or around a personal interest outside the shop-like hunting or fly-fishing. These connections empower our work and give it greater meaning. Woodworking is not something that takes place only in the isolation of our garages and
Work shops. It is an expression of the complex relationships with the worlds of nature, technology, fellow woodworkers, our friends and family, and even with the growth and discovery of ourselves.

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