I spent this afternoon installing five hinges made by blacksmith Peter Ross on two tool chests. And though I’ve installed a lot of them, I involuntarily marveled at their beauty and utility. They are that gorgeous.
In fact, one the best parts of my life is getting to work with other artisans, whether it’s a woodworker writing a book for Lost Art Press, a blacksmith making a chest lock, a foundry worker pouring a casting or a bookbinder making a deluxe edition.
While this statement seems obvious – who wouldn’t want to work with these awesome people? – I don’t think it is. It’s a damn challenge to work with others. Every piece of blacksmith-made hardware is different and requires extraordinary individual attention. Every woodworker who writes a book is different and requires individual attention. And so forth.
In fact, my work would be a lot easier (and profitable) if I simply wrote books, published them and ignored the work of other people.
But my life would be much less rich. And I would be a lesser person for it.
That’s why I have great respect for publishers such as Marc Spagnuolo and Joshua Klein, who have reached out beyond their insular worlds (we all have insular worlds – we’re woodworkers) to bring the ideas of other people to the forefront.
Marc, as you might know, has been filming the work of people such as Anne Briggs and Darrell Peart for The Wood Whisperer Guild. Joshua has enlisted an entire host of writers and builders to create new knowledge through Mortise & Tenon magazine.
Both of these guys could easily do their own thing, ignore the rest of the world and live handsomely. They both have magnetic personalities that would allow them to be the epicenter of their own universes.
But they haven’t. And my hat is off to them.
Your work will be better if you listen to a variety of voices. Don’t just listen to me. Learn what you can from all the other people out there. And pay special attention to the people who are also willing to listen to others.
Learning this craft from 100 teachers (instead of just one) is more challenging for you, the student. At some point you will need to say: “Wait, this particular bit of gospel is total BS to me.” But you will be a more resilient, informed and balanced woodworker as a result.
You will see the overall patterns in our craft, not just methods of a single teacher. And maybe, when it comes time for you to teach others, your mind will be open, and you will glady promote the work of others, even if it challenges the work you do every day at the bench.
— Christopher Schwarz