Willingness to Try

Unlike some, I don’t shy away from trying techniques and processes that are new to me.

If you rely on somebody to show you how to do something, you may learn how to perform that task proficiently but you may not ever know how to do it another way, or develop your own methods of work. More significantly, you will never make a breakthrough and develop a new technique never before used.

Crossing Joint

Now, if your goal is to be able to make high-quality woodwork, simply mastering the well established techniques that we all read about should be enough. I do believe that having a solid understanding of the basics is essential, and knowing advanced techniques is useful as well.

It’s the willingness to look beyond what you know, and experiment, that will really help you develop on your own. This is the path to innovation.

To see if a process can be improved upon, focus on the desired outcome and identify which processes you know can be used to complete the task. Don’t stop there. Continue to examine the product and try to figure out how else it can be achieved. Chances are, you will figure out some ways of achieving the result that you hadnt realised previously. Many will likely be techniques already discovered and employed by others, but one or two may be viable options that are new.

There are always new woodworking tools and technologies coming out and it’s good to be aware of them, but don’t forget to look outside of the woodworking box. What tools are used in metalworking, upholstery, or ceramics that might be suitable or adaptable in whole or in concept to your application?

You may find something new that works well, or you may not find anything useful other than the new-found knowledge that you didn’t find anything worthwhile there. I believe that knowing even that is useful. But you can’t make new discoveries if you only follow.

What is there to be Afraid of About Failure?

Well, for starters, I’m not sure what failure really is. I’m always experimenting and learning and, to me, what others may perceive as failure is really just an indication that something can be improved. I am always looking for ways to improve things, and constantly analyzing things for weaknesses.

Developing a solid design on paper (or in CAD) is exceedingly difficult, and perhaps impossible. For that reason, many designers, after they have put together a workable idea, create a 3D prototype that they can interact with, test it, and understand ways to make it better.

In almost all cases, there will be a desire to change something. Maybe it doesn’t look or feel right, or maybe it doesn’t operate as it should. These are not failures, but merely a part of the process.

This same mentality can be applied to the work that we woodworkers do. If I make a three legged stool, I might realize, when I test it, that the legs are too close together so it is easier to tip over than I might like. This isn’t a failure – it’s just a step in the design process. Next time I make something similar, whether it be the next day or next decade, I will take into consideration what I learned from the previous versions of the design and make adjustments.

I guess what I am saying is that creating good products requires patience. Developing a good design requires caring and often requires numerous versions, each a little more refined than the last. Quality workmanship takes an investment in time. And it takes time to fully understand a design – the best way I know is to use it in everyday life just as you normally would.

You Don’t Need to Know What You Are Doing

The New Furniture

Knowledge is good, but sometimes it can be blinding.  It can lead to incorrect assumptions and closed minds. Currently, I’m reading The New Furniture which addresses how technology is changing the woodworking industry.  In the book, Ken Susnjara made this comment on how his company, Thermwood, came to invent the first CNC control.

In truth, this was not part of any grand scheme.  Much of it occurred just because we didn’t know what we were doing.

– Ken Susnjara

When I haven’t been told that something can’t be done, I am more likely to try it for myself.  Even if I hear that it can’t be done, I may still test it.  I think that this attitude is exceedingly important in the world we live in today – the age of misinformation.  Learning the basics is important, but experimentation and figuring out things for yourself is the best way to learn what works and doesn’t work, as well as why.

Links:

New Quote Added to “Quotables”

While preparing for my presentation at PechaKucha Night (which is tomorrow, doors at 6:30, show at 7:30 pm, tickets $12 at the door) I found some new quotes which I have added to my page titled Quotables.

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.  Art is knowing which ones to keep.

– Scott Adams


Out of limitations comes creativity. 

– Debbie Allen


Faith is not being sure where you’re going but going anyway.

 – Frederick Buechner


All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make the better.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


Don’t wait for a good idea to come to you. Start by realising an average idea – no one has to see it. If I hadn’t made the works I’m ashamed of, the ones I’m proud of wouldn’t exist.

 Polly Morgan


“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

– Andy Warhol