My father and I were very close. But there was one point of friction in our relationship: My career.
He thought I could do better (he was probably right), and he insisted I would make a good lawyer. So in 1993, I applied to law school at Ohio State, was accepted and enrolled. But instead of attending law school, Lucy and I moved south. I took a woodworking class at the University of Kentucky, and here we are today.
My career remained a sore point, and it was the only thing my dad and I would argue about (aside from where to eat dinner or how many appetizers to order).
The thing that would relieve this pressure – oddly enough – was meeting David Savage.
I’d long admired David’s work as a designer, builder and writer. On all three counts he is fearless, and it seemed to me he would build, write or say whatever was on his mind. And he didn’t care if people liked it or not.
He invited me to an early dinner one day when I was teaching in England, and the idea frightened me out of my wits. (It also frightened my students. One commented: “You know, he took took that surname of his for a reason….”) I wouldn’t have been surprised if David had showed up wearing a cape.
Instead, during that dinner, David became an immediate father figure for me. And that’s a totally weird thing to happen to me – I don’t latch onto people quickly or easily. David then invited me to teach a class at his shop in Devon and to take a class there on veneering. I accepted.
During my weeks at Rowden Workshops, I slept in a nearby inn and would bum a ride to the shop each morning. When I couldn’t get a ride, David would pick me up, sometimes in his Morgan. With the car’s top down he’d blast through the sunken Devon roads as I silently prayed that a huge truck (lorry) wasn’t speeding our way around the upcoming corner (sometimes it was).
Somehow we got to talking about my father, who was fighting cancer at the time – a fight David had yet to commence. I laid it all out.
After a couple minutes of silence – just the wind and the roar of the engine – David said: “He’s proud of you. Don’t be silly.”
And that was that. Hearing it from David made it real, and I stopped worrying about it. Occasionally I wonder why that clicked. In some ways, David and my dad were incredibly similar. Both came from humble beginnings and went “all the way” in society. My dad was the first person in our family to go to college. He became a physician, which was a stunning leap of caste for our family of brickmakers and paper salesmen. David went to the Ruskin School at Oxford, then the Royal Academy. Both are highly opinionated and frustratingly good at everything. Snappy dressers. Artistic, with a good eye for color and design. And both had little regard for what the world thought of them.
So it made sense when David told me about his cancer diagnosis and his desire to get this book done by the end of summer (a timeline that is like evolving a camel into a thoroughbred in a few months’ time) that I immediately replied: “Of course.”
And here we are with David’s book, “The Intelligent Hand,” off to press. For obvious reasons, I’m too close to this project to offer you a valid opinion. But I don’t regret a single minute of the last six months we worked on this. Or the anxiety of not getting it done in time. The priceless drawings that went missing for awhile. Or the (I won’t bore you with them) technical difficulties.
Through this book, some of you might see the same thing in David that I saw years ago when we met. It’s not something everyone is looking for. It’s a high, almost unattainable, standard to which to aspire. It keeps you up at night, sketching. It makes you destroy any substandard work from your hands. It makes you want to wear a cape (just kidding about that last part).
“The Intelligent Hand” is available for pre-publication ordering in our store. Details are here.
— Christopher Schwarz