Wednesday, March 13, 2013

If it’s Worth Doing

I was fortunate to enjoy some extra time in the shop today, so I decided to start working on a long box to hold the break-down candle holder I built a while back. 

I’m using the same recycled Oak from the old dressers that I used for the candle holder.

While cutting the miters for the corner joinery I found myself needing to make some slight tweaks to my 45 degree cross-cut sled.  I built this sled about three years ago, back in Albuquerque, and it’s survived two big moves and some pretty big temperature swings.

After adding a strip of strategically placed tape I was getting nice, square cuts again.  While cutting the parts for the box I found that those pieces to the right of the blade had glass-smooth cut surfaces.  I had never noticed this previously.  It could be that I’m using a nicer, 90-tooth blade this time around, but it was quite a surprise.  There are no adjustments made to that side of the sled, and when I put a square up to the pieces…dead on!  I discovered this as I was about half way through my planned cuts, and armed with this new observation…it was worth resetting and starting over.

Here’s a quick pic of the box taped up into a dry-fit.  All four mitered corners lined up and closed up very nicely!

While celebrating my good fortune of having discovered this higher quality cut to the right of the blade, I recalled the parts to three other boxes that I had milled and cut a few months ago.  I knew there was some slight gapping and rough surfaces in the miter joints on those boxes, but was sure I could pull those joints together in the gluing process with some extra clamping pressure.  My gut was also telling me that there was some risk of those slight errors showing in the joints.  My mind kept going back and forth…it was worth giving up about 1/8 of an inch on these boxes to re-cut those joints…it was worth the hour of time to pull these “completed” box parts off the rack and make them even better.

The difference was noticeable right away.  As I taped these boxes up into a dry-fit I could tell that these joints were going to be crisp and accurate.  There are no visible gaps at any point along the surfaces of the joints. 

Now…I could have muscled these boxes together and then spit and cussed my way through bringing these joints in line and correcting/hiding any gaps, and they probably would have still looked pretty darn good.  I have had some success in fiddling my way through some inaccuracies in the past.  There is something about knowing that I’m putting these boxes together with my best effort though.  Knowing that I’m achieving the highest quality I’m capable of (for now) injects a little bit of extra pride in my work.

In re-working those three boxes I didn’t get to all of the plans I had for the day, but it was worth taking a step back to elevate my craftsmanship just one more little notch.

Work…learn…re-work, and then stretch!  What are you skimping on?  Are you mailing it in on anything? 

If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Inspiration - Wait for it, or Find it?

When posing a question like, “What role does inspiration play in the creative process?” there is an almost immediate, gut reaction to reply, “Inspiration is the most important part of the creative process you knucklehead!”  Let’s take a step back though.  Does art or design really come from a sudden revelation of thought…and if it does, how do folks arrive at that point?

I offer up a point to consider, in a quote I first heard while watching an episode of “Art Race.”  An interesting concept for a show, for sure!

“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”  - Chuck Close

Chuck is a painter and photographer known, as a photorealist, for his large scale portraits. A spinal artery collapse in 1988 left him severely paralyzed, yet at the age of 72 he has continued to paint and produce work that remains sought after by museums and collectors.  If anyone had an excuse to fall back into a “waiting for lightning to strike” posture, it would be the old man suffering from paralysis, right?  Maybe Chuck has it figured out.  Maybe lightning does strike, but not in the comfort of your living room, sitting on the couch…wondering and waiting.  If your aim is to be struck you need to go where the lightning is.  You need to climb a high hill, run around in the rain, getting wet and muddy.  Only those who are attractive to lightning get struck.

Where is your high hill?  Is it a studio?  Is it a workshop?  Is it a garage?  Is it a desk?  Go to your high hill and FIND that next great idea by exercising the things you know about your craft, push yourself to test something new…scrape a few fingers, ruin a piece of wood, waste some paint or a canvas while experimenting.  If you’re just waiting around they weren’t being used anyway, right?
What are you waiting for?  Get inspired by getting to work!