Sunday, October 05, 2008

Breaking out of jail... (a Todd post)

It's been 6 months that we have been living in the new house. In the last 13 years (since I left Vermont) I have never felt as "at home" as I do now. Unfortunately, I love where we live so much, that I really don't want to be anywhere else. I don't want to be at work, in Florida, in Tahiti, or on the boat. The only place I want to be is home.

As usual, the things that attract me to the house are the projects to be done. I have doors to install, wood to stack, fires to build, pasta to make, and a woodworking shop to complete. I want to paint the basement, renovate bathrooms, and remodel the master bedroom.

All I want is a couple of months to spend at home (and an unlimited bank account).... is that so much to ask? :)

Worst of all I think, is the woodshop. I have had an interrest in furniture making for as long as I can remember. If you were to ask people that know me, they would probably be surprised by that. None the less, it is true.

The reason that they would be surprised is that, until now, I haven't ever really mentioned it. Basically, this interest is one that I have kept bottled up for years. My personality is such that once I get into something, I get focused on it and want to learn everything I can. Woodworking requires a lot of specialized tools and most importantly a lot of space. Also, to be any good at it, you need to "apprentice" to someone that is a master. I have known for a long time that I didn't have the resources to pursue this art. So, I have intentionally avoided discussing it (and even researching it) for fear of being severely frustrated.

That has all changed.

Now I have a woodshop.

I also have a master furniture maker that is giving me lessons, and with each visit to the tool store I get a little closer to having a complete shop.

I am having more fun with this than I have had with anything I have done in my recent memory. The skill, the art, and the whole process from design to end-product appeals to my senses. I love the smell of freshly cut cedar, and I enjoy the feel of maple and walnut after it's been planed, joined, and sanded.

In my job as a technology consultant, there is no permanancy. Regardless of how well designed a system is, it will be obsolete in a few years and it will be torn out. That has been my single biggest complaint about my job, nothing I create will even survive my employment with the company.
When I was a young man, my parents had a fireplace built in their house. I quietly watched the mason build that beautiful fireplace brick-by-brick. It may seem silly, but that had a huge impact on my life. I remember thinking that his work would stand long after he had passed. I remember thinking that even if the house burned, it was likely that his fireplace would stand. I have been looking for that for most of my life. If I become good at this craft, I too can create functional art that others may admire years after I have gone.

The other cool thing is that furniture travels. I think about that when I walk through "antique" stores. The interesting thing about a $50,000 antique table is that it was likely created by someone just like me, in a shop just like mine. It may have been sold, passed down, moved across country, and then found at an estate sale. By the time it ends up in that store it may be 110 years old, have hosted thousands of family dinners for hundreds of people, and be 4,000 miles from the place where it was created. In fact, the shop in which it was built may have been leveled to build an auxiliary parking structure... but the craftsman who created it (although anonymous) is still appreciated.

The only problem is that right now, I am stuck in my office. With a bunch of techie people. Doing techie things. I can't focus, and I don't want to.

I want to be in my shop.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can completely understand that. There's something about creating something enduring with your hands that just feels more "real" or important in some way that making twice the money sitting behind a computer screen just can't match.

I've been enjoying the sweaty weekends working on my deck radically more than I do my somewhat cushy office job. It just feels better.

October 6, 2008 at 7:48 AM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

I grew up in my Dad's machine shop. The things that my dad, my brothers and I have made are parts of other things--like part of an engine on an F-14, or part of a hinge on a missle silo on a nuclear sub, or part of a machine that rolls out mass quanities of paper.

I remember one winter I was working in the office with my brother. It was a particularly snowy winter, and the snow plows were having to lift up the snow and carry it away to a field where it would be out of the way. Walter, my brother, frowned out the window and said "That guy driving his truck has nothing to show for all that work. The snow pile will melt in a few months, and then what? At least with my work I have something I made at the end of the day."

It's so true.

October 6, 2008 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Creating something with your hands gives you such a wonderful feeling knowing that there is a physical reminder of what you made.

October 6, 2008 at 7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading this post reminded of when Tito designed & built our desk. How much time, sweat and tears he put into it. And its perfect. I love it.

October 8, 2008 at 4:01 PM  

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