October 24, 2005

Something I Learned

Sometimes things are so obvious..., after I figure them out! So here is a story about something I learned recently, that gets to the core of what I do and why it interests me.

I have a new product line: wine bottle stoppers. At the upcoming show in Marlborough (November 4-6), they will get their debut. And I am having so much fun making them. I do make other small items such as stamp dispensers, candle lanterns, etc. and I like them very much as objects and designs. But the bottle stoppers are different. I find myself compelled to go to my shop in the evenings or Sundays and making a few. I started to ask myself why these struck such a vibrant chord with me... in some ways the same feeling of joy and creativity that I have when I am making lampshades. Compared to the lampshades, the stoppers are so totally different in scale, function and uniqueness. I had to ask myself why they brought up these feelings for me.

The answer is that in both cases, there are only a few basic design constraints that relate to the functionality, but mostly I start with a chunk of wood and carve away in an instinctive way, sculpting the ultimate shape in an right-brained improvisational state of mind. Very little of the decision making is predetermined or consciously purposeful. I am just seeing and doing. And that is a lot of fun, for me. I have made about 50 bottle stoppers so far, and no two are alike. Sometimes I make one that I like a lot, and the next one might have some related elements or lines -- or it might not!

It is the same with the lampshades. Usually I discover the shape gradually during the hours I spend turning away the extra wood, by "seeing" possible shapes as I go along, or by finding grain patterns and colors that will be best displayed by some particular profile. Rarely (usually when I have a special order to fill), I will have a pre-established idea of what I might make with a particular piece of a log. But if the log "calls out" to me that it wants to be some other shape, then I respond to that urge, and the special order waits until the next log, or the one after that.

I knew already that this sense of discovery was a big part of the allure for me in making lampshades. It never crossed my mind that this joy could come from making other things. So that is the lesson I learned from making the wine bottle stoppers, and maybe it will lead to further new ideas. Who knows?