Today’s post is written by Stephen Parsons.
People who are new to woodworking and those who view it from the perspective of an external observer may think of woodworking as being somewhat an homogeneous field of work. But there are many styles and perspectives of woodworking; what appeals to one woodworker may not particularly appeal to another.
I have to confess that since I have only recently (yes, 3-4 years is recent in woodworking time) returned to woodworking after a lengthy hiatus – and since my earlier exploration was mostly of a functional nature – I have not really come yet to define the style or area of woodworking that most appeals to me. In fact I have come to appreciate and enjoy exploring all of it. I guess that the artist in me has a penchant to create beautiful, artistic pieces. But the technologist (read: tool-builder) loves to create jigs like those I explore in my series on “The Joy of Jigs“. I am also intrigued by techniques like marquetry, intarsia, and several Japanese woodworking styles.
Recently, I have found myself devoting more time to heirloom production pieces like the chess set I was recently commissioned for, a plaque commemorating our trip to Italy, or this beautiful walnut, maple and purpleheart cutting board (click image to enlarge) – now just absorbing its first coat of linseed oil. I like creating beautiful things and the challenge and skill that it takes to do that will always appeal to me. But I have still not found a style or technique that might help me define my “artisanship”.
I have observed in my time with the Atlantic Woodworkers Association (AWA) that there are some who may overlook the appeal of functional woodworking or arts and crafts in favour of artisan, and purely artistic design and production. I don’t think it is hauteur, snobbery, or lack of respect for other styles, but rather a perspective that is somewhat limited. I am glad that AWA defines itself as a member association and not a “guild” – a term I always associate with a single-minded pursuit of excellence rather than celebrating the joy of sharing, exploration and discovery. In our most recent association meeting, our monthly challenge was to create a piece with one or more moving parts. I was delighted that so many members participated in the challenge and even more so that almost everyone who participated went with something whimsical – which is how I decided to take on the challenge.
My presentation was this gumball machine based on a design I found in the Association’s library. Sorry I can’t attribute the author, but there are many related designs out there for the Googling. I modified the design a little to come up with this final effort and I filled it with both gumballs and M&Ms. It has been a big hit at the office and was such a lot of fun to do. It was – relatively – a simpler piece in many ways than the more elegant works I have been working on recently, but it attracts a lot more visitors to my office than anything artistic I have created in months and that is exactly what I would like it to do. So, I consider it a huge success.
What excites you about artisan endeavour, design and production? Do you enjoy doing something just for whimsy and fun? Please use the “leave a comment” link at the top of this post to tell me about your thoughts on doing what you do for the joy of doing it.