If I cut a mortise in a leg, and attempt to pound in a tenon or use a clamp to malign it with mechanical advantage, because I did not fit the tenon well to begin with, the leg will crack. Imprecision is the bastard of impatience. So now I have a cracked leg. I'll have to not only clamp the apron rail to the leg, but apply additional clamping apparatus to the top to pull the crack together. As though I could replicate with glue and pressure what took years to originate.
The adage measure twice cut once is incomplete, to this we must add; cut correctly, fit once, fit again, fit again, trim the piece, fit again... Cutting joinery is not for the spontaneous. The painter in me wants to exude gesture, embrace impulse and commit to a few hours only. My painterly expectations brought to the alter of carpentry will be met with rejection by the Governing Powers that are the physical properties of wood under stress. Here then is an important lesson about expectations. Do I expect a design that works, without first planning, sketching, rejecting, revising and sketching again? There are very few "one off" pieces of furniture I am aware of.
Each piece is a revision of one's self and understanding of the craft process. There is a continuity and harmony in all my wooden pieces that shows growth and change in a way more concrete and permanent than sketches in a book. That is these pieces have a physicality often unmatched by drawings. I haven't yet banged my shin on a charcoal sketch. The permanence of furniture is due to the choices we make of which boards to keep in which dimensions, resulting in manifold spacial relations. The components of a piece function like marks in a drawing, bound by the totality of the new whole. Natural forces abiotic and otherwise shaped the tree during its growth, a confession in cellulose. This natural fixed order of ringed growth, of wooden history is destroyed in order to display it. The thing is destroyed to be appreciated, like so much consumption. To give the tree new life, it must first die.
"Preservation" (if you can call it that) of the tree in furniture simultaneously changes the wood's history and potentially extends its existence in that form. The (what would have been)natural and (actual)anthropogenic paths will both converge again, united by the inevitability of decay. Pieces that survive hundreds of years on estates or in museums face the same reentry into matter cycles.
The cost of carpentry is greater, not just monetarily, than the demands of drawing. Mistakes in wood aren't so easily hidden, crumpled up at the bottom of a trash can. If I cut the chamfers on the bottom of one leg too high, symmetry and uniformity make the demand on me to adjust the other accordingly. If a "stray mark" makes its way to the page I can erase or indulge in my plenteous paper, beginning anew. I'll reassure myself that the last drawing only took a few minutes. In both drawing and carpentry, we create "snapshots" at different rates. Our impressions of the world compel us to impress upon the world.
Is the pace of my paper-purging
On par with replanting
Of the Pines?
Or do I
Walnut, Cherry, like they're ALL mine?
J0hn Hunter Speier
Recent work, and explorations of techniques, aesthetics and poetics.