Saturday, July 10, 2010

Why Wood?

Someone asked me recently why wood became my material of choice. Not metal, not marble, not paint, not fabric; why wood?

I decided to explore the “why” more closely.

This requires a trip back in time. When I was in college I worked in a variety of media: casting bronze via the lost wax method; centrifugal casting for jewelry making; glass blowing; clay; marble carving. But I kept coming back to wood.

Sometimes we’re lucky enough to find a niche in life when we’re young. Just like falling in love, you just know when you experience it. For me, that passion was wood.

Niche found. Love acknowledged. But why??

All artists and craftspeople bring a unique perspective to their work, colored by personal interests and psychologies. My own needs demand that I work with materials that complement me personally. For me, wood combines three qualities that no other material can match: spontaneity, forgiveness and sensuality. Other materials might possess any one of these, but the combination is uniquely captured in wood. Again, for me, these characteristics are essential to my creative voice.

First, spontaneity.

Since no two boards are the same, the grain becomes the voice of my work. I’ve blogged before about James Krenov and his use of grain to enhance his pieces. Once I understood this concept, my work was never the same. Wood, on any given day, gives you a different message. Exploring patterns with the grain allows me to create a little magic within each piece.

Even if that is corny, it’s still true.

But perhaps more important to me is wood’s forgiveness. When building a piece, sometimes you come across issues (or defects) that need to be addressed immediately: a small knot, a change in the grain, a mineral streak or a line of sapwood. It’s possible to eliminate or correct those defects along the way, providing two benefits for me - a mental challenge and, in the end, a flawless piece.

Yes, other media may approach this quality, but never to the extent of wood. When working with clay, you can spend hours on a piece only to pull it out of the kiln after its final firing and find any number of irreparable things: a crack, a glaze defect, a warping, just to name a few. These pieces, sadly, end up in a scrap pile. I’ve lost some fabulous ceramic pieces because of these problems.

But I’ve never lost a piece of furniture due to circumstances beyond my control. See? Forgiveness. Wood allows you to figure out the ways in which it needs to be worked so that most things remain in your control. It allows you to work with it, instead of against it, and it will reward you every time.

Finally, wood appeals to so many senses. It is warm where marble is cold. It is fragrant where fabric is bland. It is resonant where clay is silent. Running my hand over a piece of wood; looking at its chatoyance, feeling it's softness, examining its grain — these actions give infinite sensual gifts. I like to brag just a bit that my pieces are just as gorgeous when viewed from the underside as they are from the top. Try that with mass produced pieces - you'll probably be surprised at what you'll find.

So that’s why wood.

Perhaps the better question is - how could I have chosen anything else?

1 comment:

I said...

Sounds sappy ;-)