This past week, I set my cabinet aside to organize the shop a bit. A few weeks ago, Yvonne was doing some cleaning and sorting, and came across a wall cabinet that I had started in 1989. It was in the early nineties, that I started leaving the S out of my carved signature. I think mostly due to my lack of carving skills at the time. The cabinet is in Canary wood, with a quarter sawn ash back. The wood was purchased from a little lumber yard in Saskatchewan, where the wood was stored in a barn and old school buses. It was an early attempt at dovetails.
I was unsatisfied with my abilities, and quickly lost interest in the piece. We began to use it in its unfinished state for various purposes around the house. We used it for several years at home to hold our music cassette tapes. It eventually made its way to my shop, and I used it where I used it to hold hardware and bits. It held several of my planes and other handtools, when I went to the College of the Redwoods, and after several moves, after returning from California, I had completely forgotten about it.
I was needing a place to house Jim’s tooling in my new shop, so I thought I would take some time, to make a few shelves. As the cabinet was already assembled, I decided to drill for the console holes through from the outside. I made a little drilling jig, and clamped a backer in place so not to blowout on the inside faces. I chamfered all of the holes inside and out, and mounted it on the wall to the left of my bench.
I cut three shelves, from a piece of cherry that I had made a bed from years ago, and drilled the holes for shaper bits and end mills. I fit them to the cabinet with a plane, and cut and shaped a little curve along the front edge.
While carving the consoles, I was reminded of a story that Jim shared with us when he retired from the College of the Redwoods in 2002. In the following years when he lectured for our students at IPSFC, he would share it again now and again with us. The article was about the potter Eva Zeisel, and appeared in the New Yorker April 13, 1987.
“You must imagine glazes, possibly highlights sliding around the hills and valleys of an object, emphasizing the breaks of it’s surface. You must imagine that a glossy surface might be dark, and that reflections intrude into the shape, that receding surfaces have a tendency to disappear by shading. You must imagine how handles feel and how pots balance in your hand before they exist, and the shape of the flow continuing the line of the spout, and the shape of the plate or handle so that it does not slip out of your hand when you pick it up. You must also imagine the innumerable outlines or profiles which will delineate an object while either you or it moves relative to the other. You must imagine the lines.” She writes of the complex relationship of “something to nothing” saying of decoration, “When does it impress you as jewelry? And when does it become tedious or even not decreeable by its abundance?” “When do emotions you want to convey become caricatures? What does a sixteenth or thirty second of an inch here or there do to your design? Is it relevant? You must feel this out by watching the renounce of your emotional response.”
I learned from her daughter that she was working twelve to fourteen hours a day. The next time we spoke, Eva said “ Ive been carving spouts and handles all day. My hands have remembered something. Not my mind but my hands.”
The last couple of mornings I spent carving consoles in my shop before heading into the school to teach, have been the most enjoyable time I have spent at my craft in a very long time. I used a couple of Jim’s knives and chisels and sat in a very comfortable chair designed by Jim’s dear friend, and made by one of my students also a dear friend.
Be well and enjoy your work,