I don’t consider my skill level to be refined enough to think of myself as a “craftsman” or “artisan” and I doubt that I ever will. I’m just a guy puttering around in a shed. Even so, I find that I want to build and create things that are uniquely my own. I’ve never felt comfortable simply copying someone else’s design. Granted that doing so is the best way to learn and improve skills, but it always feels like a paint-by-numbers exercise to me.
I’m a member of Paul Sellers‘ Masterclasses site and have built several of the projects. By doing so I have learned a great deal and truly enjoy the way Mr. Sellers teaches. Lately however, I mostly practice the demonstrated skills in each series but I don’t actually build the projects. The projects are good, quite good, but I have limited space in my home and there is this nagging need to make my own designs.
I guess the best way to describe this is that I’m trying to find my own voice. Now, what the hell does that mean? Please don’t take this to mean that I think I can do anything better than what others have done. I simply want it to be mine. From the first line sketched on paper to the completed piece. Maybe its a completely new design or just a modification to an existing design. I want the things that I build to have a unifying style.
The Greg Merritt Style.
Which, as I write it, sounds both arrogant and contradictory to the opening statement of this post. But here we are non the less.
So what makes up a style? We can all list at least a few. Shaker, Japanese, Arts and Crafts, Campaign, Mid-Century Modern and Danish come to mind. Actually that list is telling. I know them because those are the ones I’m drawn to. Lines, proportions, shapes, wood choice and finishes combine to define a particular style. What is it about the above listed styles that speaks to me?
I tend to favor clean lines and simple adornment. I’m practical by nature so this makes sense. I also lean towards the “crafty”. Techniques that are accomplished with simple tools and accessible by everyone have a strong appeal to me as well. Hence my interest in knot tying and kolrosing and folk art in general. I have a strange dislike for swinging doors. Sliding doors just seem more practical to me and is one of the things that first interested me in Japanese woodworking. I would also rather spend days cutting joinery than drive a nail or turn a screw.
Hand crafted with clean lines and an international folk art flare.
How’s that for describing my “style”? It may be somewhat vague but its a start. With this starting point I can begin/continue to design my projects so that they all have some continuity. I’ll have a general idea as to what elements that I want/need to incorporate into each project. Hopefully, by knowing my style, I’ll gain some focus in my design process no matter the type or scale of the project at hand.
With that somewhat figured out I have had a bit of inspiration for small box design. It’s a bit radical but based on tradition. Maybe it will be a stroke of genius, a complete failure or, like most of my projects, a mediocre success. I hope that you stay tuned no matter which of the three your rooting for.
I think you summed up what many of us ‘guys in a shed’ woodworkers struggle with. I sometimes think I am just a copy cat, and not a very good one at that based on my poor results. I look forward to seeing how you solve this issue as I would like to do it as well. Best of luck.
Building proven designs is the best way to establish skills. However, once a certain skill level is achieved you are free to decide your own path. There are infinite possibilities.
I’m eager to see what you come up with Greg, I’ve really been inspired by your work in the HB Tansus.
I think there is a spectrum from slavishly reproducing an existing design to a fanatical obsession with creating something that is a unique and original as possible. Any point on that continuum is OK to my way of thinking.
I just read Patrick Edward’s latest blog post where he talks about how he has so much history with antiques he can’t imagine creating something in a different context (he said it much more clearly, of course). At the other end of the spectrum are people like Wendall Castle who have reinvented their style repeatedly to push themselves.
For me, if the finished product makes me feel good, or the process of making it was enjoyable it’s a win. Extra points if it was an enjoyable build and something I enjoy having when it’s done.
Thanks Joe and I’m eager to see what I come up with too.
I have no intention of reinventing the wheel. I just want the wheel to look like I made it.
Most styles throughout the ages have been either reinterpretation of existing designs or flat out rejection of the popular style of the day. My primary goal is to build pieces that are a reflection of myself. Who I am, what I’ve done etc. So most things I expect will be my interpretation of existing designs with the occasional original design here and there.
For me going or trying to go the handtool route, I needed some direction first. I’m getting that from Paul Sellers. I’ve made a lot of his projects over and over again to get the technique nailed down . Now I’m going off on my own using what I’ve learned.
I don’t think your projects are mediocre. Rather I think you are like all of us who are our own worse critics of what we make.
I have loads more to learn too Ralph. Instead of continuing to build the projects, I simply practice the techniques demonstrated. Then I try to incorporate them in my own work.
I do think that we tend to be most critical of our own work. Since most of us work alone there is no one else to give us direct feedback. Its a constant learning cycle for me and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
I do not think your projects have been mediocre successes either. Quite the opposite, like i said before i admire your vision creation abilities, which get turned into sketches, and into completed and well executed projects. you have taken steps towards improving your skill and execution, as many of us have, sometimes the steps prove to be just baby steps.
Ive recently taken some personality profile testing while job searching. Im in the artistic, creative, investigative type category. I have a need to create, a need to ask questions and find answers. I have a need to create something tangible in an ever increasing virtual world. So for what its worth Mr Merrit, I say you are on your way. I look forward to seeing your style continue to develop and evolve. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, you have given me something to think on, ponder and consider.
Thank you for the kind words Brian and I truly appreciate you support. I have a lot to learn and my skills have a long way to go.
The need to create can be a powerful and driving force that I understand all too well.
The best of luck to you in your search for new job. I hope that you are able to secure one that you find fulfilling.
Creativity like life is a learning curve but sometimes the curves we run become circles and we get dizzy and have to stop to refocus. Be it failure or success you still have created. I admire and gain inspiration from you projects and methods and look forward to you new concept.