Two years ago I started experimenting with woodworking as a hobby. I wanted to be more involved with craft and craftsmanship as a way to learn new things, but also as a way to inform what I was doing in my day-to-day client work. I’m also really intrigued with the possible ways of incorporating the digital aspect of what I do in my woodworking.
The idea that something handmade has been touched, carved, sanded and shaped by someone using various tools is compelling. All handmade objects have a story, and I’m going to attempt to tell the story of how I began and what I get out of it. Almost everyone has the ability to make. It’s something that’s ingrained in our deepest psyche. Some of us are more successful at starting a self-initiated project and some of us need more encouragement. Either way, making can be a great way to express yourself in a unique and genuine way. If you haven’t made it part of your plan for this year, then I highly encourage you to think about it.
For the past several years I’ve also been involved in making posters and illustrations using screenprinting (also something I taught myself over time) and have a pretty decent set-up at my studio here in Petworth. However, I was craving something new – something challenging in a different way. I’ve always loved the idea of sculpting and creating three-dimensional objects. Woodworking seemed to be the thing that would let me create some of the pieces that filled my sketchbook. This year, like many of us, I have lots of 2016 resolutions. One of them is to find more time to make. I also want to make things together as a “community.” Making in social groups can be a powerful way of connecting in more meaningful ways. The more I learn about working with wood the more I can share my experiences. Right now I know just enough to make me somewhat dangerous.
My love for woodworking started with an idea I had for making an oversize popsicle. I’ve made and sold several of these guys and that’s where I really got my start. You can view that project here. I had the sketches and plan set, all I needed was a few necessary tools to get going. I needed a bandsaw and a belt sander. I had some other basic tools like a hand sander, a Dremel and some other handheld tools, but this would require a bit more. My budget was roughly $300, so I made some advance sales to raise the funds for the Popsicles. It was the perfect project to start with. It was complicated enough for me to stay challenged, but easy enough for me to accomplish in a short period of time. I had set out to make and teach myself a new skill and I’d done it. I think it’s so important, no matter what you do during the day, to find ways to make and learn something new.
Recently I’ve felt the need for an actual space to do my woodworking in. For the past year I’ve been working in the basement of my county retreat. This is the place I get a chance to slow down, think up new projects, and make things. However, working inside the house was not the best solution. If you’ve ever done any woodworking you know that dust gets everywhere and covers every surface. When we purchased the cabin there was a fairly decent sized shed on the property. It was filled with dingy paint cans (filled with the tackiest of colors), old lumber, an abused antique couch and a bunch of other things that didn’t do me any good. Recently I had a ton of things hauled away from the house and decided to take the opportunity and clear the shed out too. What I found was an impeccable floor, solid walls and clean surfaces. I was shocked! From the outside it looked like a dilapidated mess. Fortunately for me, it was big enough to house all my equipment and just enough room for me to move around. So I did the obvious thing. I cleaned it up and went to work. I set up my equipment and ran some extension cords for lighting and power and got to work creating a new space for making. I was about to turn a little shack in the woods into a little shop in the woods.
Here’s a sneak peek at a latest piece I’ve been working on in this humble little shop in the woods. The shape is based on some sketches I’ve been working on for some time now, and I wanted to see how it would look in wood. I’ve also done some rearranging in my DC studio and there’s a wall that this would be perfect on. That’s generally how I start projects – by a need. The piece will eventually be a combination of organic and geometric shapes, layers on top of one another and painted with various saturated hues. The largest part of the piece will be unpainted. I really love the texture and variation the wood has to show, so I just sealed it with some semi-gloss polyurethane. Part of my inspiration for projects like this usually starts with a desire to fill a space or wall in a room. I like filling empty spaces and so this is where my projects like this are born.
I think it’s important to recognize and understand how the creative community is changing and how creative people are making things today. We’re living in a fantastic, energetic and creative era. Never before has so much technology and knowledge been accessible for the taking. Passing this up seems like a true shame. Every day new makers are emerging and knowledge is being shared. I truly encourage you to be part of this revolution of making. Create space and time to learn and imagine something new for 2016.