Saturday, June 29, 2013

Fashion Proof

I approach my woodworking avocation from several different personal view points. I want to build things that will last the test of time. I want to build things that are beautiful and artistic. I want to build things that are challenging, I want to build things that others will appreciate. I want to build things . . .   you get the point.

If I boil all those strained and sometimes conflicting desires into one homogenous sauce it would taste and smell like independance. I want more in life than to be the consumer I've been socially conditioned to become. I hate, HATE, the built in obsolescence of nearly everything built and sold today, where it's cheaper to throw away and buy new than it is to repair, renew, and replace.

Flipping channels the other day, I found myself watching "Hometime" on PBS. It's a standard home improvement / remodel / build stuff television show. The episode covered part of a complete kitchen tear out and remodel. The host was interviewing the lady the show had contracted to do the design work and create the layouts and elevations for the custom cabinetry shop to follow. I was a little struck when she said what I found to be the oddest thing.

"You have to be sure you like the design of the kitchen cabinets you put into your home because you're going to have them for the next twenty to thirty years. I tell customers you have to think about them like they're permanent furniture for your home."

If "twenty to thirty years" is the equivalent to "permanent" then I am swimming in the wrong depth of water. By deductive contrast the "less permanent" furniture in your house should debatably be swapped out for new every three to five years.

How could anyone reasonably keep that pace and still pay for high quality furniture? By the default of rotting replacement you'd be relegated to the purchase of cheap, big box store, pressboard crap. Better yet, if you only have to look at a furniture shaped object for four years, then the proportions, design, and affect of the piece are things hardly considered.

I want to build furniture that is fashion proof. Pieces that will stick and stay around for generations, not something that will be set out on the curb or discarded for a shiney new poly finish on the supermarket shelf. The strategies to accomplish that are several fold. Foundationally it happens through real wood construction using traditional, strong joinery. As woodworkers we can all appreciate these things in spades, but truthfully it's something only only another maker truly notices or cares about. The average man on the street isn't able to discern between mortise and tenon joinery over a handful of pocket screws unless he's educated about it, and even then the amount he retains or cares about is probably minimal.

The real strategy to get someone who doesn't know a thing about woodworking to give a crap is in the design of a piece.

We have a new home we are getting used to and everywhere I look I see spaces for furniture to build. I have the technical skill and ability to build these things, but it's important to me to do things right and build things that count for the long term. I'm just smart enough to know the ability to cut dovetails and joinery isn't the complete picture to filling a home with furniture. Thanks to Jim Tolpin and George Walker's book "By Hand and Eye" I've been doing a lot of learning and thinking about design lately. There will be more of these thoughts to come.

Ratione et Passionis

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Touch of Patience is Required

If there is one thing I dislike reading in blogs it is the obligatory "Wow, seems I haven't written anything here in a while, I will have to remedy that." post. In my experience that means one more post will pop up in my reader, followed by another six month (or longer) lapse. 

I've taken sabbaticals from writing here as frequently as possible before. Mostly for not great reasons. This time around I am happy to relate that it is because we have been spending time moving into a new home we purchased on the north side of La Crosse. 

Better yet, this house has a sizable garage that will become the home for a new shop/studio space. I'm out of the tin shed and into a real structure. 

The house is around 80% unpacked and set around. The studio is about 65-70% set up. When it hits a more complete number I promise a new shop tour. The biggest hamper is we have yet to arrange an Internet hookup at the house, leaving me to resort to our mobile phones and coffee houses for my data needs. 

Needless to say nearly everything in our lives has taken a backseat to this endeavor, but I should be able to spend some time making shavings by early July. 

I have still been thinking about and planning posts this whole while. The notes app on my phone is chocked full of them an I'll be getting some of those out soon. 

Until then the management would like to thank you for your patience while this area is under construction. 

Ratione et Passionis