Monday, July 23, 2007

The Stronger Pull

Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.

Rumi(13th Century Persian Mystic on Creativity)

Every piece of wood is a mystery. Sometimes the mystery is less as we work with debarked and smooth boards, but often it is a wonder as bark is removed and color and texture are revealed. We are also a solitary people most of the time, working alone to uncover the secrets of a piece of wood, itself a mysterious thing created to enrich the world.

This sense of mystery itself generates a sense of wonder and of love. That love may be one for creation itself embodied in the amazement of the wood, or an expression born of oneself for the recipient of the piece. That recipient may not even be known to us. It may be a buyer or for that matter the receiver of the gift the buyer has gotten. Yet there can be a love that reaches out to the unknown person, themselves part of God's creation.

Sometimes of course the person is known and the love is obvious. But what of the time when the person for whom the piece is destined is known but not loved in the classic sense? Then is there not a love for the wood, for the work, and for the integrity of creation that fills the piece? Or is this something to be sought, time and again?

Friday, July 20, 2007

wood turning out of confusion

"Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty, find opportunity."
A. Einstein

I am in my annual or semiannual or whatever, 'clean the workshop' mode. As you can see I am also at the computer, fighting the mode well. At times the clutter is overwhelming and it needs to be cleaned. Sometimes it leads to more than a clean shop. A while ago it meant more turning when part of the cleaning was the intention of moving some wood out of the way. You might call it a bit of simplicity from the clutter and some harmony from the discord of walking through the mess.

I wonder how much turning results from the thoughts of cleaning a messed up shop and finding another log to work with or saying "I thought I was going to make a ### with that?" How many shapes have we just put in drawers or on shelves before picking up a piece of wood to move and seeing a curve just like the one on the pliers handle and saying "aha!"

Then of course there are the 'oopses' in turning. A side too thin or an intended bowl that is now a funnel. Design opportunities from accident. Opportunities in difficulty. Neat stuff. Einstein had a lot to say to a wood turner.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

craft thoughts

Phyllis George, founder of the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft and an avid folk and traditional arts collector said:
“Crafts make us feel rooted, give us a sense of belonging and connect us with our history. Our ancestors used to create these crafts out of necessity, and now we do them for fun, to make money and to express ourselves.”

One of the threatening philosophies in our culture today seems to be an attempt to rewrite history. While history is the domain, generally, of the victors and is told always from a biased viewpoint no matter how objective the writer attempts to be, it is still an attempt to present facts as well as interpretation. Crafts have always been a part of our history no matter where we are in the world.

At first craft was done from necessity. People needed weapons for defense and implements for hunting, fishing and gathering. Later farm tools were needed as well as tools for various other crafts that developed. Homes and furniture were needed as well.

Then as things got more settled and urgency for the finished product diminished to allow for more production time, art got confused with craft as decorative work was added. The history of craft is also the history of art especially as it affects the things that people use every day.

Today the effects of the industrial revolution allow us even greater freedom for art in craft as most utensils, furniture, wood work and fabric can be readily produced as a consumer item by machine. The craftsman woodturner? Following for instance the bowl turners of yesterday we may still attempt to craft a fine salad bowl out of beautiful woods. Yet the person buying could get as functional a bowl for less than a tenth the price at the local big box store.

Instead, we all become a part of the ongoing history of craft. The turner makes a bowl for the sheer joy of crafting a piece out of wood in the same manner as turners a thousand years ago. The buyer buys not for the salad, but for the pleasure of using a beautiful object on a regular basis. They purchase not a salad bowl but a gorgeous piece of wood lovingly crafted in the manner of a long history of craft and civilization.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Fun and creation

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.
Carl Jung (1875 - 1961)

Now here is a thought for the day or so. A lot of the time at the lathe is more fun than creative, at least for me. I tend to turn a lot of things the "same." You know the way, twenty or thirty pens, a dozen spatulas, a bunch of bowls or whatever. Sure, each one is slightly different, but they are really not "one of a kind" except in the manner that every piece of wood is different.
Still, there is a feel of creation going on. In fact, this side of God, we always see what no one else has seen as the bark peels away and a new face of wood is revealed. A glimpse of creation as it were. Perhaps if we let this gel along with the shear fun of turning, creativity results in some new pieces. Sometimes we just need to play.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Not a burl but a piece of spruce log I had to drop a couple of months ago. I turned it into a mushroom to cover the plumbing outlets I had put in a while ago. This way I can find them easily. I will turn a few more to keep this company and have a family grooping. This one is 20" tall and 11" diameter. Man o man the shop is a mess.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Spruce Burl Dreams

While I was at Summer Camp last week as spiritual director, my wife got a call from a fellow I have never met who had had some work done in his back yard. He had a "couple" of spruce burls if I was interested in them. He and his wife were going to their cottage for a while but they were in the back yard so I could just go get them if I wanted them. So I backed my van into the driveway this morning and looked. There were 29 burls ranging from 6" to about 24" by guess. I loaded them into the van and brought them home. It amazes me that I can back into someone's driveway, load the van, and leave with no one saying anything. These burls look like a lot of fun and I will see they get one back.