• Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

“I change many things, discard, and try again until I am satisfied. Then, however, there begins in my head the development in every direction, and, inasmuch as I know exactly what I want, the fundamental idea never deserts me, – it arises before me, grows. . .”Beethoven

As you play with various ideas, one (maybe a few) seems particularly attractive. It grabs you and demands further exploration. After some development, it becomes a clear, strong, and compelling vision of your project. This is what I am calling the “concept.”

The concept is important because it will be a guiding, unifying vision throughout the rest of the design and building processes. It defines a piece: its look, mood, style, and aesthetic. It sustains you when doubts arise deep into making a project. The concept is a bit like a person you understand, trust, and love.

For most of us, highly skilled and exact drawings are not necessary to represent a concept. What matters is to have enough sketches, graphite or electrons, and a mental sense, to make the concept clear to you. Every detail need not be worked out at this point. Rather, the clarity of the concept is a reference that promotes consistency when deciding later which nuances fit or fight the look of the piece.

Like a song, there will usually be a “hook” – an aspect that draws keen interest within the unity of the piece. The concept need not be grand; a modest, simple theme sharply conveyed with conviction can be quite powerful. There must be a good sense of the size and overall proportions of the piece.

For the wall mirror, the example piece in this series, I wanted a Japanese motif, most significantly with curves contrasting with straight lines and angles. No mitered corners. The top of the frame was the hook for me. The straight line, trapezoidal sides lead the eye up to it. As I experimented with different shapes at the ends of the top piece, it was easy to pick the winner. The straight lines and angles of the bottom piece form a visually solid base. I later reworked the end angles. Later I experimented with adding a little shelf.

I envisioned the surfaces of the top and bottom pieces to be convex in the horizontal and vertical dimensions but I could not draw that. No problem – I worked it out later with a mock-up. I experimented with size and proportions using a medicine cabinet at home and some masking tape. I was not sure of every detail and dimension at this point, nor was everything on paper, but I was sure about the essential look of the piece.

I emphasize the need to have a concept! Some woodworking projects reflect the lack of a unifying, clear vision on the part of the maker. Features foreign to each other may be conglomerated or there may be no focus of interest, no reason for the viewer to care. Sure, we’re woodworkers and we all make pure utilitarian stuff too – I sure do – but if you want to make fine woodwork that excites and fulfills, develop a good concept to get you going.

This is fun!

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One Response

  1. 1

    Your comment about a “hook” is very true. I recognized that some of the woodworkers that have inspired me do this and I have tried to work this idea into my projects. Good post.