Wood Teaches


Wood teaches. This is something learned pretty early in the life of an artisan.

It teaches how to cut and shape it. It taught me how to cut with a coping saw: you push down more than you push forward. It taught me that it has different speeds: routing douglas fir is slow if you don’t want to break out splinters while with cherry you must move along a little more rapidly unless you want to produce burn marks.

Wood’s teaching goes more deeply than this. Wood must guide every design. Thus it informs you heart and mind. Every design is a series of yes’ and no’s that, if they are heard and heeded, finally bear fruit in some beauty. The design begins with a concept, a working hypothesis. The artisan takes this to the wood and is sometimes told, “No, not that way.” The craftsperson searches another way, and maybe another until the wood says, “Yes.”Mass production is simply following the design process where all the “yeses”  have been found ahead of time.

Wood even reaches our soul and spirit. These are the aspects of us that are more centrally involved in who we are and where we are looking. In other words, they speak of our beginning and end, our source and vision. Looking into the figure in a piece of walnut or cherry, one sees in a wonderful way one’s own beginning and the world one inhabits. These marks were produced by the sun and wind interacting with the earth and this plant.

In a way one is looking at the beginning of the universe being offered to us in order to take the next step. Something can be formed here, and it is speaking to us, calling for birth. This is all in the teaching of wood. There is always more. In my house stands a cherry end table. The top of it depicts a flight of geese flying toward the sun. The sky shines forth in the cherry. The geese gleam in curly maple. The table is beside my bed and holds a lamp, a clock and whatever book I am reading at night. It is a table in form. Yet more it is an expression of a journey and a dream.

Let wood teach you. Open your life to the skills and dreams it can place before you.

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