One day I walked into my garage where I kept all the tools I use to rehab our house. After staring at them for a while, the question arose if I could actually make something besides windows, door frames and other assorted bits and pieces that a 138 year-old house forever needs. My first attempt was a lap desk made of Walnut. I bought the plans from some website and I made it for my father. Giving it to him as a gift made me feel like a first grader that just gave his parents a cutout paper hart with my first attempt to write my name on it.
I started out believing the cliché "What I make depends on what the wood wishes to be made into." or "Each piece will tell you what it would like to become." That lasted about a month. What happens to me is I try to do something I have never done before, screw it up and then make a design change to incorporate the newly made mistake.
To be fair, I do envy woodworkers that have achieved oneness with a piece of wood and can understand and seek out what it is the wood is asking of them. I wish that would happen to me at least once in my life. I think it would be a life altering moment. Unfortunately, I just can’t fathom why tree would ever aspire to be a peppermill.
In a previous life I was a photographer. Working in the darkroom, the first time I printed a picture, watching the image appear on the paper as it floated in the developer filled me with complete awe and wonderment. This stayed with me for over 20 years and up until the last picture I printed. I understood all the science and chemistry behind it all, but still…Magic! Nature is alive. It is at times perfect and symmetrical and others it is twisted, rotted and deformed. I caress and thump the wood, hold it up to my eyes and look closely at the grain, knots, and occlusions. My senses take delight in the dense, heavy wood of the Locust, the bright orange wood of the Osage Orange, or the earthy smell of Oak. I think I do this more out of the wonderment of nature than anything else. The true challenge for me lies in taking that piece of wood and incorporating all of its perfection and flaws into my work. My ultimate challenge is to take all of nature’s offerings and incorporate them in my work. But in the end, I have come to realize that it is my emotions that usually determine which piece of wood I will use and what I will make.
Time and the outside world are not allowed beyond the doors of my woodshop. Oh there are short momentary lapses back into this 3d world, like when you have to assemble the joints before the glue sets up or your wife is tapping you on the shoulder telling you it is 9 PM and asking when you are coming back in the house; I went out to the shop at 8 AM.
Really, my wood working is an adventure. All of my wood is sourced from local trees that have been cut down. Most have come from my own neighborhood and Muncie in General. I carry a saw in the back of my car and will always stop when I see a downed tree. I have been known to stop while dressed for my day job and with other people in the car. With each new acquisition bouncing around in the back of my car, I happily think about peeling the bark off and seeing what is underneath, bugs and all. Inspiration I will always be experimenting with style, shape and function. Nothing is off limits when it comes to creating with wood. In my travels and other adventures I find shapes I would like to explore all over. I take a picture and use it for inspiration. There are literally hundreds of pictures on my computer of various items that appeal to me and have influence what I am doing.
I recently stumbled upon this guy’s website. I like what he has to say about his relationship with the wood that he works with. He so beautifully states in two sentences what I have been trying to say in the last 750 words: “Because the tree once lived, every cutting of new wood is dynamic, a challenge to combine the best flow of grain with design and so honor the beauty and life of the tree. The patron and the artisan then become partners in this unique and timeless relationship simply called craft.” -Michael Doerrhttps://www.michaeldoerr.com/about