Tag Archives: craft

Bread

18 Mar

“Are you making it pay son?” My Dad, a Yorkshireman, used to ask me.

I took it to mean – ‘How’s the carpentry business going?’

I would rattle off the projects and commissions I was working on and proudly show him pictures of pieces I had made.

In retrospect I think there might have been a deeper meaning to his question.

One of his favourite aphorisms was:

“Life is a shit sandwich son, the more bread you’ve got, the better it tastes”

Pithy.

A better known Yorkshire saying would be;

‘ear all, see all, say nowt; eyt all, sup all, pay nowt

Yorkshire folk are proud of their short arms and deep pockets.

This means that trading in South Yorkshire demands a certain determination if you are trying to make a living with your hands.

So how do I make it pay?

I know a fair few talented artists and craftspeople who struggle. Many of my friends rely on a part time job to supplement their meagre income in a fiercely competitive environment. Some supplement their practise by tutoring and teaching.

Joseph Beuys famously said “Everyone is an artist”. On the face of it, every person has the capacity to be creative. But Beuys was referring to our humanity, not any innate ability to sculpt or draw.

Picasso said:

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

Therein lies the key to the dilemma.

Some people want your skill and what you make for bobbins (on the cheap). Some just want to waste your time. Most who approach you may love your work, but have no real idea of what it takes to produce an original, one off piece, using the best materials, your knowledge and skill.

The people who commission my work all have one thing in common – they are prepared to invest their trust. I have the utmost respect for this powerful motivator.

For me the real Art is in the dialogue. Me – listening and responding to the wishes and desires of my clients. The Clients – showing me what they really want.

First I will make a design drawing in ink (if I can draw it, I can make it).

Then if you are happy – I’ll cost it. Time + Materials.

I give you time to consider the costs, accommodate any changes you may wish to make (adjusting costs accordingly). I will accept a deposit to seal the contract. Then I make.

Both of us are expending that most valuable of commodities on the project – time – so it’s a contract.

Clients bring desire, taste, ideas, wishes and hard earned bread to the table. I bring skill, a track record a reputation for a solid build and an ability to listen, plus four decades of experience as a carpenter.

In the end, hopefully, we have a satisfied customer.

Old School.

Mollie, my step mother, gave me this advice years ago:

“If you did a tenth as much as you have done up until now, Henk, you will still be doing twice as much as everyone else”

Slow down, listen, focus:

hear all,

see all,

But say nothing.

Make it pay.

As with bread –¬†you have to prove yourself.

Dad can have the last word: “Anybody can be a busy fool lad.”

HL

Gouge

24 Mar

I thought I would try writing this piece on my iPod – small taps of the finger to achieve a sentence or two feels like trying to whitewash the coal shed with a tooth brush, but it resembles the best approach required to carve hard wood.

Tempting though it is to select the biggest gouge in the drawer to carve a chair seat, belting the tool with a big mallet will only result in pulling out deep scars in the grain, uneven working and the need to keep sharpening your chisels often. It is better to start modestly and build up a rhythm of small even cuts, testing the behaviour of the tool against the wood. In this way, shaving away many fine curls of wood over time ‘reveals’ the shape you desire more surely than heavy handed hacking. There is no way to rush this process, nor should there be.

When we draw something or, write prose, we make constant reference to the subject – a frame work or a theme. Erasing sketch marks and redrawing, editing and re-editing sentences achieves the same refinement as careful carving. Image, meaning and form arise when constant reference to a pattern guides incremental work. Just as drawing is governed by rules of perspective, writing by grammar, style and syntax, woodworking is controlled by the properties of the timber and the behaviour of the tool in our hands.

Think of it as a meditation: many small cuts to remove a large volume of wood, multiple pencil cross hatches to render solidity and depth, words discarded before succinct prose is discovered.

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200