The concept of originality has been a struggle for me. It’s been the easy option to hide in the comfort of Yacht and boat work where I find the methods of work natural, familiar and comfortable. Seeds were planted though, back before I went to college.
The first time I was introduced to sharp and useful hand tools they were handed to me by my Uncle, I absorbed his enthusiasm and love of craftsmanship and together we dived head first into choosing woods and designing an appropriate piece for me to make. At the time my Uncle and, as it happens namesake, introduced me to the work of a particular designer maker, I read his work, liked his style and based my own piece on what I had seen. I made a little tulip wood cabinet, curved door dovetailed carcass and two little curved shelves inside, the brass hinges were made by my uncle. I was reasonable pleased but could clearly see what could be better, my mother has the cabinet now with her jewellery in it. The fact that the cabinet lives on it’s back and is used like a chest symbolises to me the immaturity of my work at that time; if I am to make something that has little ambiguity as to its purpose I have a lot more to learn……
Almost 20 years later…..
My struggle with originality I think, stemmed from a misguided belief that complete originality exists in the first instance, and that any worthwhile work is a sort of pure originality of a single persons conception. It has taken me a long time to learn that is not the case, we all have teachers, influences and it’s ok to draw on them. usually those influences are subtle, a hint at a style or technique, in the case of this little writing desk it is much more obvious. Anyone who knows of the work of the late James Krenov will recognise the general form of this piece. It is not a copy, it has differences in details, size, timber and shape that suited my own eye and taste. As a practical and aesthetic form though, for a writing desk it is in my mind as good as it could be, an attempt to just to make it differently to be different would be silly and disappointing.
The design of this desk is simple and uses shapes that have become part of my own repertoire over the years, the grounding form of the flared legs, the return flare in the upper leg much like the stretch of a tree arch for example. The curve in the top is aesthetically beautiful but also serves very real ergonomic purpose; We generally all twist away from our writing side slightly when we are writing and this shape simply allows that to happen whilst keeping support for the non writing arm. In short, it is both beautiful and comfortable.
I used my favourite brown Oak, quarter cut for stability and medullary figuring, the long drawer has a conventional Oak bottom and sides, again quarter cut for stability and figure. With the drawer shut all you can see is the brown Oak, with it open It is interesting to witness the contrast in the two types of the same timber species. I’m particularly happy with the little carved drawer handle, I think this will be a feature of other work in the future. There is more to say about the making of this little desk, the methods used, the detail decided on, awkward joinery, the agonising over how to cut into my precious boards, but not for now. For now I want to illustrate that I don’t see myself above needing inspiration and guidance from others that I admire, and that to a greater or lesser extent everything I do has influences drawn in from many different places and people. I’m happy with that now, relaxed and honest with my work.