There she goes, my beautiful world

Root Simple reader Mary H left a nice comment on my Monday post about the muses,

A long time ago I heard “When times are good, make art. When times are bad, make more art.” Also, Neil Gaiman said, ” When things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art… Make it on the good days, too.”

In that spirit, in the midst of the quarantine/curfew I spent some time organizing my garage workshop so that I can continue to make furniture for the house. I took on the much delayed and deadly dull tasks of organizing the disorganized hardware storage bins and improving dust collection. Life is easier when the workshop is clean and the tools are sharp and in their place. Speaking of sharp, I also spent time setting up a dedicated sharpening station so that I won’t be tempted to put off this essential task when in the midst of working.

It’s important to have a pleasant space to work in. So amidst the tools are a few tchotchkes, images of cats and Bernie Sanders signs to remind me of happy before-times. Spending time in this space does not completely allay a foreboding sense of anxiety about the world but it’s certainly better than sitting in the house doom scrolling Twitter.

One of those Sanders signs says, “Fight the Power” a kind of pun in that I’ve, unintentionally, managed to assemble a work practice that blends power tools and hand tools. While I enjoy the convenience of a table saw and band saw I much prefer “fighting the power” with an over 100 year old hand plane that works as well as the day it was made. I’ve slowly begun to shift to using hand tools more often. They are safer, produce less dust and, while taking some practice to get used to, are just as precise if not more so and lead to fewer catastrophic mistakes. Lastly, I can’t minimize how important it is to have a proper workbench. Other crafts such as sewing, metal work, electronics etc. are greatly facilitated by a proper and dedicated work surface as well.

While expensive to set up, the workshop has paid for itself many times over. I’ve used it to make reproductions of furniture that would cost tens of thousand of dollars as well as make molding for the house and install wood floors.

I often think of the Nick Cave anthem “There She Goes, My Beautiful World” when I find myself slipping into a pity party. The song reminds us that creative types of the past managed to work under much more horrible conditions.

John Willmot penned his poetry
riddled with the pox
Nabakov wrote on index cards,
at a lectern, in his socks
St. John of the Cross did his best stuff
imprisoned in a box
And Johnny Thunders was half alive
when he wrote Chinese Rocks . . .

So if you got a trumpet, get on your feet,
brother, and blow it
If you’ve got a field, that don’t yield,
well get up and hoe it

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6 Comments

  1. I’ve ditched the term ‘pity party’ for ‘awareness of anxiety taking the lead’. It’s real and it sounds less shameful and more like something one has actually a little control over it.

    These days I’ve been rereading many things I’ve enjoyed before – the sign of introspective times. This has been the one I’ve read more often: https://lettersofnote.com/2009/10/08/it-will-be-sunny-one-day/

    Take care and keep writing about those well designed hand tools, which even if a hundred years old can perform as well as the day they were made.

    Greetings from a dark, rainy and cold day in the River Plate winter

  2. You’re “doing the work”. Doomscrolling ha ha ! I catch myself far too often doing that. And then I remember to pick up my pen and draw. Helps tame those wild thoughts.

    I do love that letter Julia linked to. Sweet.
    I’ve heard those comments about art as well. The thing I try to remember is it’s a practice. Which means, it’s a daily thing (more or less ) and the daily action is how you get there, even if the destination keeps changing.
    I also love reading your blog. Cheers.

  3. Your post reminded me of the woodworking studio my late uncle had in his garage. He has gone but his jewelry boxes, bookshelves, trays, cabinets, and many other works remain.

    We can all translate keeping the workspace clean and becoming proficient in using hand tools to our particular situations. The really important revolution is to do more with our hands than click and swipe: to return to making things. The more I learn, the more I think that it’s not language but what we do with our hands that makes us human.

    I’m knitting a cardigan at the moment. Last night I wrapped the 10 inches of lower body around my back and felt its warm presence envelop me like a safety blanket. I tell you it pulsed with energy. If you start to feel glum again, go up to a piece of furniture you’ve made and touch it and see how it makes you feel.

  4. So glad you are not ‘doom scrolling’ anymore. I had to stop doing that several months ago.
    We all need to keep doing whatever we can to make our lives beautiful. I do my needlework and listen to uplifting programs. And I have found that my body has achieved its own rhythm with the seasons. Working on the things I enjoy brings me peace. Gardening, needlework, cooking, reading. Sometimes I wish for the hyper-crazy big ideas I used to get (like painting my walls a different color) but contentment seems to have taken over.
    I enjoyed seeing your work space. I have a room devoted to my personal ‘art’ and it brings me happiness as soon as I enter.
    I hope Kelly is also doing some of the things that bring her joy. I think back to her ‘uniform’ blog and wonder how it went. I would love to hear from her and learn how she is doing.
    Keep making things. Your work is fantastic. You are an artist. Looking forward to hearing more.

  5. I have been spending time in the garden, with my husband
    and our two cats and – now that South Australia is opening
    up again – with positive and happy friends. I don’t
    want anything more.

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