Thursday, December 30, 2010

I find it fulfilling and inspiring to work with wood, on so many different levels. I have always loved trees- trees of every kind. They have this humble approach, constantly striving towards the sun whether gigantic or tiny, healthy or ragged, in a forest or on the side of the road. Trees possess a beauty of spirit that is visually present in their connection of the earth and sky. You can clearly see their leaves fanned out in search of air, and usually glimpse their roots as they penetrate the ground in search of water and nutrients for growth. A visual reminder of the groundedness of life on our planet.
This image by celtic artist Jen Delyth beautifully encapsulates this idea.

After a tree becomes lumber, the beauty only modifies in content, not depth. I can't think of any wood I dislike the appearance of; I can think of quite a few that I find visually stunning: the purplish to gray chocolate browns of walnut; the warm red tones of cherry; the simple utilitarian glow of ash or oak; the mesmerizing sparkle of figure maple or myrtle. I think my design has tempered over the years to draw attention to this beauty rather than distract from it: forms are simpler, decoration more about accenting colors within the main wood. And all of this comes to an amazing head when the finish is applied: the first liquid coat of protective finish always reveals a surface 10 times deeper, richer and more beautiful. What a treat after all that work!

An yet another dimension: despite all of this inherent beauty, wood is an amazing natural resonator. It has density to sustain vibrations, coupled with a lightweight cellular structure that allows those vibrations to move large quantities of air and create musical tones. Once you begin tapping on wood to search for musical potential, you don't stop. You begin to hone your listening, and categorize which wood might work best for which instrument. I would venture to say most all wood is musical; however some species are very well suited for particular applications. And when working the wood, each dimension can be fine tuned to optimize that musicality inherent in the material. The most intense example of this is in voicing a stringed instrument soundboard. You have fine control of the thickness, height, length and shape of multiple braces in addition to the soundboard itself. It becomes a process of sculpting; removes excess judiciously to allow the most pleasing vibration without sacrificing the strength of the instrument. And when that instrument is first plucked- the trees are singing! It is a creative revelation that fuels the crafting spirit like no other I've experienced. I am thankful to do this work.