9 years ago, I became a single mother when my son was only 2 years old. It was during the time when my son wasn’t in my care that I decided to do something I had always wanted to do, but never had the time to (rather than mope around or feel lost). I took up wood work.
I love Australian native hardwoods, and have always loved nice pieces of furniture but I had never really lifted as much as a screwdriver in my time. So taking up woodwork was a complete adventure. While designing my wood work pieces and attending classes, I discovered something valuable. I enjoy creating something with my own hands. When working in an office job, and with computers and in large organisations, it is so easy at times to loose the ability to be creative, or to actually see the outcomes of your efforts in a tangible way.
The other lesson learnt in wood work was that good things take time, and the anticipation, hard work, attention to detail and skills handed down over eon’s are all important parts of the process. Everyone that sees the Jarrah and Red gum hutch dresser I made want’s me to make them one. But after I tell them it took me 3.5 years to make, and I did it by hand, and sourced the raw materials from all over the place (old floor boards, sleepers etc) are not so keen on it anymore. If most people can’t have it now, or for mates rates, then they don’t really want it. If I was to add up the cost of the time and materials – they wouldn’t want to pay for it.
My wood working teacher was an important person in the process too. Step-by-step along the way he mentored and coached me. Every part of this piece of furniture was hand chiseled, hand sawn, hand sanded, mortice and tenon jointed, dovetailed. The whole thing was done with hand tools. I look at each part of this huge piece of furniture that now sits in my kitchen and remember each part. It was painstakingly slow. It is a labour of love – really.
And I had to learn from scratch. The first time I lifted a saw and tried to start sawing, it slid all over the piece of wood. It was harder than it looked. If you have ever hand chiseled a dovetail joint, you will know it is a mathematical work of art! And when you see other’s handi-work you realise the same level of skill, craftsmanship, discipline and commitment you needed to get the job done. You can feel the love.
I would never have had the knowledge to even conceptualise my piece in 3 dimensions without my teacher John’s skill and help. And he learnt these skills from his teacher and so on. These practices are thousands of years old. Even now, I would not be able to recreate this piece on my own. Learning how to do these things takes so much time and practice.
The confidence, and sense of pride I gained from doing this project with my own hands has been the driving force for doing more of the same.