I'm mostly an open content geek: recording all that can be in the digital memex (i.e the Wikimedia universe); mapping and walking in Fremantle (for OpenStreetMap); striving for a bit of simplicity; and now and then building bits of wooden furniture by hand.
The speed at which one is required to respond in various forms of a) long-distance communication, and b) woodworking.
I have been thinking about the various forms of long-distance communication that are in common use, such as email, telephone, and snail mail, and in particular the length of time each gives one to respond to what the other person says. With traditional postal correspondence one has ample response time — months if so wished — and this I think gives letters a distinctly ‘thought about’ tone. The same is true, to a lesser extent, with email: although it is easy to quickly rap out a reply to someone and send it without really thinking, there is still the opportunity for leisurely consideration of what you want to say, over perhaps a couple of days. This is not true with the telephone — it is at the extreme end of this ‘speed of response’ continuum and necessitates a faster and less considered reply than even a face to face conversation. Silence just doesn’t work on the ‘phone, and can’t play the important role of reflection and consideration that it does in all other forms of long-distance communication — including postal and electronic mail.
There is a parallel between this increasing response time in communication and the time that one has when working with wood to respond to the tools, materials and workshop environment. Take the saw as an example: a portable circular saw can give you very little time indeed to change your grip, stance or in some other way avoid being hurt — its a bit like a ‘phone; a table saw is more forgiving because the table, blade, fence(s) and work-piece are all (hopefully) fixed in their positions or trajectories and are therefore more predictable, but there is still the opportunity for rashness and accidents — similar to email one might say; the handsaw is the slowest of the saws and as such gives the user much more time to respond to the work-piece moving, or an unseen knot that puts the saw off a bit, or any of a thousand other things that necessitate a response to the timber or tools — I would liken using a handsaw to sitting down and spending an hour or so writing a letter, knowing that far from being a ‘waste’ of time it is just more time spent being close to a dear friend.
In which I bring my desk back to school to finish finishing it and then get it assessed.
What a marvellous morning! I brought my desk back to school this morning to get it assessed next Monday; I walked here with it on my wheelbarrow. It’s not a long walk — an hour or so — and an a day such as today it’s quite a pleasure. Not often do I feel like smiling at motorists (in their stinking, noisy vehicles) but when possessed by the good vibes of happy woodworking their childish “get off the road!”s touch me but little. Walking this morning prompted me to reflect on just how important it is for every stage of making — including the transporting of the finished piece — to be of right ordering.
I won’t fill you in on the background of anything; I have to start sometime, and it might as well be now.
The box is coming along well, better this afternoon once I gave up for the time being trying to make A Thing to cut trunnels. I turned instead to getting the bottom finished: I am putting a low divider in towards the front of the box and cut the rebates and tenons on it this afternoon. The work went really smoothly and pleasurably; I love it when it happens like this. I would’ve kept going but I wanted to get in here (the library computer lab) before 7:00PM, and also home before dark.
I began today feeling pretty down and wanted only to sit in my room and read, so that’s what I did. Didn’t last long though, before I hauled myself out of there and down the hill to school — why on Earth should I feel guilty?! I was sorry I had come when I got here, but after retiring to the library to read The Unknown Craftsman for a couple of hours I started to remember what it was that I was so excited and happy about towards the end of last week: letting go and just flowing with the wood; being guided by what it wants to do.
After many weeks of thinking, scheming and proposing I have at last settled upon this blog form, and so must begin. Have I anything to say? Not much, but this morning Yanagi (yet again) gave me something to think about, and I think it worth sharing.
“Crafts are of and for the great mass of people and are made in great quantity for daily life. Expensive fine crafts for the few are not of the true character of craftsmanship, which, being for everyman, are appropriately decorated with the patterns of everyman. It is natural that craft objects should be associated with patterns that are also, in a sense, communal.”
—p.117, The Unknown Craftsman, Soetsu Yanagi (1972), Japan.
If we didn’t have injection-moulding machines to make inexpensive chairs, we would still need chairs, and those chairs would in fact still be inexpensive compared to the alternatives — they would just be vastly different in character. It is this folkcraft that I wish to develop in my work; to make useful things quickly and without over preoccupation with the ‘fine’. A table will fulfill its purpose admirably whether its surface is smoothed a mirror polish or no — and if one wants to to be putting tea cups on its surface it will probably be better that it is not smoothed excessivly.