Making without measuring

It is completely possible to make a piece of furniture without using a ruler, or tape measure! Want to learn how? Then join me at the John C. Campbell Folk School on 5-7 July for Making Without Measuring: A Dovetailed Flag Box. Using a few basic tools, I will show you how to create a full-scale drawing which we will then use throughout the building process.

The class title also mentions dovetails. Typically, we encounter dovetails when perpendicular members meet, think drawers or boxes. In the United States, the flag is folded into a triangular shape. So, how are we going to handle this? (Hint: think isosceles triangle, which is not necessarily a right-triangle.) Through a change in perspective. I will guide you through this process.

Plus, we will develop new skills and get to use some cool hand tools! Register here!

Learn Parquetry, Marquetry, & Decorative Veneering

Registration is now open for my parquetry, marquetry, and decorative veneering class at Peters Valley School of Craft. The header image shows the project for day 1: a series of Louis cubes. A staple of mid-18th century French furniture embellishment, these can either stand alone, or be incorporated into the project for day 2, a decorative veneer panel. Each project uses different production methods. So, participants will come away with a broad array of techniques to utilize in their personal work. The second half of the class focuses on marquetry portraiture. If you think you can’t draw, don’t worry. I’ll show you a tool to create the contours you’ll need from a photograph. Then use it at home to decorate your cakes!

The class runs from Friday to Tuesday, 14 to 18 June, which should minimize the number of vacation days required to take off from work. This will be a new venue for me, but the environment looks quite refreshing. I look forward to seeing you there!

2019 Class Schedule

I have two classes scheduled for early summer:

Tap on the links for descriptions and sign-up information.

In the marquetry course, we will explore various ways to embellish your projects using wood veneer. Intended for those with little or no experience, it begins with geometric patterns cut with knives, chisels, and a straight edge. By the end of the week, students will execute their own free form designs using a marquetry fretsaw.

I think the class at Campbell Folk School will challenge participants. Not only will we be making dovetail joints at angles less than 90º, we are going to do it without referring to the gradations on a ruler! It really is possible to construct furniture without measuring, and it is surprisingly accurate. To top things off, we will do all of this using only hand tools!

I will try to post more details as the times for these classes approach. Until then, feel free to contact me with questions.

Planning ahead

I recently received a Get-Ready Grant from the Craft Emergency Relief Fund, an organization that helps to support and protect the career aspects of artists. As a career woodworker for eight years, legacy planning was perhaps the last aspect I had not addressed professionally. Talking about legacy planning for artists is one of the least interesting aspects of my grant. You’d probably be more inclined to change the bag on the dust collector than involve yourself in this discussion! Stick with me though, and I’ll try to convey the importance of the subject. Maybe I can even make a case for the benefits you’ll derive from this exercise while you’re still on the top-side of the grass!

Plainly stated, legacy planning is about what to do with your “stuff” after you’re gone. Your “stuff” comes in many forms from the artworks themselves, to the tools and materials necessary to make them. But, your “stuff” also includes intangibles you might not have considered…

Why put yourself through this agony? Three reasons:

  • most obviously, it will reduce the administrative, physical, and legal burden you leave to family and friends when you’re gone,
  • it can help preserve your reputation by protecting your name and works, and
  • it can provide an incentive for clients to purchase more of your work now!

This past week, an illustrator with a studio in the same building as me recounted meeting with the son of a recently deceased oil painter (who also had space in the same building). Despite his passing nearly a year ago, the son was still coming to terms with the situation. Visiting from out-of-town, he had returned to survey the father’s estate. The painter’s home was brimming with work my neighbor explained. We never intend to hurt those closest and dearest to us. Yet through our inactions that is the result. It manifests itself emotionally, but can be a considerable financial drain.

The quagmire deepens if third-parties, such as galleries, have any of your artwork. Who holds the rights to the work in their possession? What can, and cannot be done with them since the originator has expired? Can, for example, the gallery put them on sale to liquidate them thus potentially devaluing the artist, and damaging their reputation? Further confusion results if, in the process of reconciling the painter’s home, the son finds another artist’s work. If not clearly marked as such the potential exists to confuse it for his parent’s. How is he supposed to determine proper attribution? I face a similar issue due to slightly different circumstances in my research. On a recent visit to a French museum, a colleague and I came across what we believe to be an unacknowledged Oeben mechanical table. Since Oeben held special patronage, he was able to ignore guild rules; one of which was the requirement to stamp all pieces produced! Not only is this frustrating, it permanently decreases the value of the work! The question will always remain, is this an original, or the product of someone else working in the artist’s style?

Finally, when Jean-François Oeben, cabinetmaker to King Louis XV, died at the peak of his career in 1763, his workshop was deep in debt, and his two chief craftsmen, Jean-François Leleu and Jean Henri Riesener fought for control. Contrast this with the case of Sam Maloof whose production continues today, and through activities such as the recent Smithsonian seminars continue assisting the community by addressing provoking questions. Because of their meticulous record-keeping, the pieces Maloof produced continue to increase in value. His clients understood this, and his back-order log grew as he aged. This didn’t “just happen”, Maloof planned ahead.

You don’t have to do it all yourself, and you don’t need to get it right on the first try, but you need to get started.The raw material for a wood worker is wood (duh!). A jeweler uses precious metals, stones, etc. For a writer, the basic building blocks are words, sentences, and paragraphs. However, unlike natural materials, letters don’t assemble themselves into these structures. So, writers go through the process of creating “drafts”; each one (hopefully) improving on the previous bringing them closer to what they were intending to say, the way they intended to say it. The Get-Ready Grant CERF+ provided got me started. Due to the legal structure under which my business operates (an LLC), I used it to consult with an attorney, and draft a will and healthcare directive documents. Lawyer fees aren’t insignificant, so to prepare for these meetings and help reduce costs, I relied heavily on the CALL Estate Planning Workbook from the Joan Mitchell Foundation.

It can be daunting thinking about, and plan for the time when you’re no longer thinking and breathing. If this paralyses you, talk with someone about it. Explaining it to another person (and recording it!) can be the beginning of the process which can be transformed later. But only you can take the first step…

Make it quick…

I’ve been invited to talk at PechaKucha vol. II on 11 May at Rocket Republic Brewing Company (289 Production Ave., Madison, AL); starting time 19:00 hours. PechaKucha, Japanese for chit-chat, is a lightning presentation form that has been described as TED Talks with beer. Twenty charts at 20 seconds each for a total time of 6:40 minutes. 

Since I’m expecting almost no one to be familiar with this piece, I’ll briefly introduce the table, give a re-creation status update, then close with a sampling of similar tables by Oeben. In all, nine talks are scheduled on a variety of topics. Come by and introduce yourself. It’s a free event.