• Sunday, November 29th, 2020

Disclaimer: Or what they do tell you but you might not notice.

I do not think I am much of a designer. I suppose that I am more of a composer, but certainly a woodworker. Metaphorically, I arrange the flowers but I do not breed and grow the blossoms. I might come up with a truly novel theme but I don’t count on that. I can recognize raw visual talent in others and their work but for as me, as Dirty Harry advised, “Man’s got to know his limitations.”

Anyway, looking at the body of work of most outstanding designers, there are typically just a few big ideas, maybe only one. The dedicated designer/artist/designer-craftsperson usually has to ride an idea for a long time through many iterations and refinements to bring it to full fruition. 

If you default to making things only from plans, or making only reproduction work, or everything you make looks “Shaker” because you think you cannot come up with a decent idea of your own, think again and give it a try. Please, this is not in any way to disparage plans, reproductions, or Shaker! They are all wonderful endeavors if you choose them. However, I do think that many woodworkers gravitate to them just because they are intimidated to try their ideas and designs. 

What “they don’t tell you” is that you can credibly venture into your own ideas. 

Your idea does not have to be great, grand, original (are any truly original?), or even fully formed. Maybe you will rework or build upon other ideas. We can call that “borrowing” if you like. For example, in my work, I have repeatedly borrowed (and reworked) elements of the Japanese torii gate motif. 

If you are inclined to take this route, I encourage you to give it a try. In the words of “woodworker” Sam Maloof, “You just have to try; you have to use your imagination.”

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2 Responses

  1. 1

    I found your site through an email from Hock tools.
    Am enjoying perusing it; you have a lot of good ideas, helpful information, and thought producing reflections in your blogs.
    I like this one in particular; I’ve been toying with an idea for a while; I like the picture at the top, that shows a small cabinet you’ve designed for holding your tools for designing. It depicts the very process you are describing quite well!
    Most of the things I make in my shop are ‘functional prototypes’ that I cobble together, many of them made so that I can assemble related tools and accessories together, with the idea in the back of my mind that I’ll go back ‘someday’ and make them out of real wood with joinery that I’ve taken time to do well. I do expect that I’ll be doing that soon–since I have time now.
    Your words reinforce something important about our inherent creativity. thanks!


  2. 2

    Thanks for the comment, Bill.
    OK, “someday” has arrived! Take one of those prototypes, commit to the idea, refine it if you want, and then build it for real.
    When you have a minute, read this:
    You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
    I will be most grateful if my writings play a part in motivating you.
    Built it!