messed something up. Part of a chair I'm working on. This
particular piece has taken me about two and a half hours to make. And I
just ruined it. I have to start over now with a new piece of
wood. There is no walk on earth longer than the nine steps from my
bench to the lumber rack.
are two kinds of ruining in woodworking. One is physical, the other
physical group fall simple mistakes of the hand. I jerk my chisel the
wrong way and it creates a gash that can't be fixed. I angle my saw a
couple of degrees off, and the joint doesn't fit quite right.
by far is the mental category. In this instance, I simply don't think
correctly. I follow through perfectly on my thoughts (such as they are),
and when I'm done I feel chuffed at my perfection as I walk away from the
tool. Until I go to fit the piece and wince to realize that I've made it
backwards, or too small, or upside down. That's when I invariably wish
someone were there to witness my confession, 'God I'm so stupid!' (I've
actually opened my phone before and called someone just to confess a
mistake. Feels good to say it out loud for some reason.)
mistake was mental. Crap. I hate doing that.
again, I love doing that. Because it reminds me that this art of mine
involves risk. Something at stake. Always.
the difference between crafting and manufacturing is risk. When I applied
for my sales tax license, I had to choose a category for my business.
"Furniture manufacturing" is what I checked. But the words left an
unsettled, metallic taste in my mouth. I don't manufacture furniture, I
craft it. Manufacturing is all about eliminating risk. Not reducing
it, but vanquishing it completely. Removing any chance that the worker
might ruin a costly piece of wood. Expensive computers tell huge machines
what to do, and they obey perfectly. Sitting at a keyboard is a man with
a cup of coffee, thoughts on the upcoming weekend, and absolutely nothing at
stake. There will never come a time when he ruins a piece that will take
him two and a half hours to remake.
here I am, ruined chair part in my hand mocking me. I scan desperately
for workaround ideas, none coming. Can I hide it? Can I make it
work? Can I fix this? Nope. Nope. Nope. Man up
Mark, remake it, and this time be more careful.
it make any sense that this is actually one of the reasons I love this
job? Maybe. A skydiver wouldn't love jumping if there weren't
at least some chance of splatter. The risk keeps me awake, keeps me in
the moment. I actually like it.
there's another kind of risk that runs under the surface all the time.
Not just for me but for every artist. That's the risk of my opinion of
myself. Am I any good at this? Can I pull this off? What if I
mess this up, can I still think of myself as talented? Easy to believe
I'm a great artist when I'm standing in the gallery next to a finished
piece. But with a chisel in my hand I'm a little less certain. No matter
how much success I've had in the past, if I don't get this one right...then what?