Sunday, April 8, 2007

A Woodie or not a Woodie... that is the question

Well I have spent this Easter weekend having a great time with the family and friends. But it has given me time to think about what I have been able to accomplish in the last 6 short weeks. And also to ponder what I would like to have happen in the upcoming future. (Both near and far)

I told you all about the last teacher that we had, by the name of Jono Everret. He was a great and inspiring teacher. I think that he was able to get me to develop some great ideas. But it got me thinking. What I wanted to be when I grow up.

What do I mean by that? Well coming into this course I thought that I knew a fair bit about woodworking. I found that I didn't know as much as I thought I did. But over the last 18 months or so I have learned more than I could have thought. So the question that I ask myself now is do I want to be a Woodie or a Designer?

I recently read a post on a woodworking website about a guy is thinking of starting a woodworking business. He was asking for advice. Someone wrote to him and said, well first you need to decide which genre you are going to work in Arts and Crafts, Shaker, Federal period. I thought to myself WHAT!!

I thought why would you want to limit yourself that way. Sure you can make a great living producing things that have already been done, maybe put your own little spin on it, but why? I thought why would you not want to do what you want. Why not design your own pieces. Why limit your views?

A woodie is someone who builds for the shear technical challenge of it. He or she puts dovetails in a piece just because they like to cut hand cut dovetails. Not because the design of the piece calls for them. A woodie is someone who wants to show off his skill to the point that only other woodies would realize what it took to make that. But the ordinary person would have no clue or appreciate what is there.

A designer makes a piece that talks to you, but not just another woodie or designer, but to everyone. Is exposed joinery necessary, is a question that he asks. Does it distract from the overall look of the piece. A designer has an answer to the question "why did you do that?". And his answer isn't "because I thought it would look good.".

Can I be a woodie, of course I can. I can make anything that you might want. I can hand cut a dovetail with the best of them. I can make a mortise and tenon or a super secret mitered dovetail. I can do all of that, but will a general customer appreciate that, maybe but most likely not. If they do, then they understand the extra cost things like that entail.

But I ask you can a woodie be a designer? Now that is the question. I think that it is possible. But most woodies think that it takes extra art talent and things like that to be able to design. Does it, maybe? But I think that most woodies except that they are woodies, they embrace it, they love it. I love being able to do all those things. But I don't want to be just known for them.

I think some of the great woodworker were both. Sam Maloof, he uses some great joinery techniques but he is known for his designs. People are drawn to his work because of the beauty of the design. After they are drawn in they see the beauty of the craftsmanship. But if you don't like what you see in the first place, you won't get close enough to it to see the joinery and beautiful craftsmanship.

So I have come to the conclusion that I want to be the best of both. I want to be able to design great pieces of furniture that draw you in to see the magnificent craftsmanship involved in making it. I hope I didn't bore you with this.

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