I wrote some time ago about listening to the Muse, what it meant to me and how the Muse informed my work. And, I sincerely meant and believe what I wrote.
But then, one rainy weekend, I promptly forgot all about it – or, rather, deliberately put it to one side. I was thinking about how long it takes me to make things; pricing, minimum wage, making a living, expenses, hours spent on creating things, finding things, putting them together, translating ideas into reality, into cold hard cash – the lure of, as my Gran used to call it, Filthy Lucre, became strong in me.
So, I set myself a task. I had been pondering a chair for many, many months, and had it clear in my head what I wanted it to be. And, armed with this certainty, I set to work, to make the chair as quickly as possible; to maximise the returns, in the parlance of the day.
I went for a walk, found my materials, headed back to the workshop and set to. In a morning I had the bones of what I thought I wanted, but, as I looked at it, I realised I was immensely dissatisfied. Still, I shrugged it off. I thought that once I had finished it, it would turn out to be what I wanted. So I started to work on the beautiful piece of Beech that was to be the seat. I planed, and sanded, and cut, and planed, cut some more, did more sanding – then, when I had reduced an inch and a half thick piece of ancient timber to a wafer, conceded that I had messed up.
Rather than working gently, as is my usual method, with my materials, letting them inform my work, and change my idea to something both I and the wood were happy with, I went brutishly ahead imposing my will. All to no avail. Complete failure. The results were disastrous, and so far from what I intended that I became despondent. The chair was ugly, out of proportion, unappealing to my eyes. And, the seat – well, that was kindling. So I left it, and thought long and hard about what I had done. I had tried to put the Muse to one side.
I learnt a hard, time consuming, material wasting, lesson. I can’t force what I do – I need to spend time, work gently, stop often, ponder, look, think, return to the fray, repeat, adjust, see what is being revealed, and help it to step out into the light.
I started again. I reimagined my original idea. Forgot the consumerist, big business ideas and settled back into my hand tools, the hedgerow and the desire to just make something that would make my Muse smile, albeit briefly. No pressure, just enjoy the process, relaxing into the work. As the rain beat on the roof, and the gales blew against the windows I worked quietly away. As I worked I realised that I was doing what I had originally set out to do – the chair I imagined was coming to life before me, and I liked it. A lot. Each step of the way I got more motivated, more pleased and satisfied. I felt good – and, this is why I do it – for the feeling, and what I end up with.
I ended up with this:
The chair is 56 inches tall, 13 inches wide at the back, and 22 inches wide at the front – creating quite a flare to the seat. The seat itself is set at 17 inches, and the arm rests at 25 inches. The space on the back panel decreases between each successive rung.
It’s a variation on the Mackintosh theme, but the height is not as exaggerated as some of the previous chairs. It’s actually quite petite.
I hope you like it. I do – it taught me a lot.