Today’s post is written by Stephen Parsons.
I have long been fascinated by the life and work of Leonardo Davinci. So, when my wife and I traveled to Italy in 2015, we sought out opportunities to explore historic sites that were connected to the maestro. This renaissance painter, sculptor, mathematician, physician, builder, inventor and philosopher (among other talents) is an inspiration to me. My own Portfolio speaks to my curiosita and interest in numerous fields inspired, in part, by Davinci and other renaissance men. But recently, I came to wonder if I (and the maestro, for that matter) are actually renaissance men, or simply suffering attention deficit?
I was spending a part of my Saturday taking in a guitar webinar lesson hosted by Tony Polecastro, and it occurred to me that while I was satisfied to be a bit of a plunker (and not only in my music talents) the fact that I was taking this training seems to indicate that I also seek to improve in multiple areas of interest. From playing guitar/ piano to wine making, drawing to woodworking, cooking to computer programming, I continue to be a student — to develop my practice and to move towards mastery in many pursuits. But, if I really want to be good at something, should I be more focused on fewer subjects?
I still have all my annual report cards from my primary and secondary schooling and in reviewing them, a theme emerges from a very early time – “smart kid, but easily distracted“. My wife says I shouldn’t worry about having Attention Deficit since I am very capable of focusing on a task to completion. But I still wonder if I am just a grown-up version of that kid who scored poorly in attentiveness?
I look around my workshop and studio and see a dozen projects in progress – two gumball machines and a couple of chess boards on commission, a cutting board for my son, some model trucks, some dip pens and regular pen kits, several hardwood boxes and a couple of jigs – all in various stages of completion. While commissions drive some diversity of work, I do confess to a wide range of practice that could illustrate a person with a propensity to distraction.
In the past two years my work has benefited from exposure to many other woodworkers and to learning and exploring different approaches. I have practiced box-making, building models and toys, wood carving, wood turning, jig-making, and much more and I recognize that these projects move me towards two key outcomes: mastery of a broad base of woodworking skills; and, perhaps, the development of a signature in craft development. In other words, building both breadth and depth of skill. I haven’t found that signature yet, but with each project, I feel more confident that the artist in me will meet the designer and woodworker and together will create the masterpiece that will mark my true talent…assuming I don’t get pulled into something new along the way.