Assesment

This morning was my final assessment for the Diploma. I was getting pretty nervous beforehand, didn’t sleep much last night (for a host of other reasons, not just the assessment) and had had little to eat. As I moved my work downstairs ready to bump it in I thought how poor it looked next to the fabulous work of Michael and John who were being assessed just before me. The usual pre-performance insecurities I suppose…

But the assessment went fine; better than fine: I enjoyed it, or rather found it helpful and even inspiring! I do believe in the direction that I’m going in, and the body of work that I presented this morning shows this direction — it is not of course where I’m aiming at but if it were why would I be here?! I think I was able to express something of my philosophy of woodworking and explain how the pieces (table, stool, chair and press) fit into it. Rodney was a great help, talking about my progress etc; so was John Reid, especially with reminding and encouraging me about the wider university context of my work (mentioning, for example, the Talloires Declaration). In talking about my work I was not very clear, nor at all concise; there was much that I would like to have added — but all in all assessment has left me keener than ever to get in and do what makes my heart sing! I thinking of drafting some sort of brief outline of those aspects of woodworking that are important to me, that I might refer to when I get stuck in the quagmire of doubt(!) Something about the workshop, my dress, drawing of what I’m to make, the recycled and made materials, the hand tools, finishing, etc. A checklist, manifesto, or somesuch thing.

Do I now want to get back into the workshop and keep working though? Not a bit of it! Time for cake and tea with friends in town I think. Part of my reluctance is the mistake I made with the dovetails yesterday: I was trying a technique that I have read about often in textbooks whereby one marks the pins by placing the tails over them and marking with the saw (and not a marking knife as I have usually done). I did not think very thoroughly about how this would work because I have heard a number of people talk about it as well as seeing it in books. But work is what it did not do: it leaves a gap the size of the saw kerf on every pin! I’ve probably just missed something very simple, but rather than trying to perfect that technique now I think I’ll go back to what I know and can do — marking off the cut tails with a sharp pencil.

On the technical side of things today: on my main page I would like to put an RSS feed from this blog, a calandar or other visual summary of my work and the same for my reading; I guess this summer will see me on the computer a bit! It’s exciting though, this playing at the point of intersection of old ways of working wood and new ways of coding sites!

I Wheel My Wheelbarrow…

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.

We Begin!

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.