This is a woodworking blog, so I don’t write much about the stuff that consumes 49 percent of my waking hours, which is making books. That’s writing, photography, editing, image processing, page layout and the intricacies of book manufacturing.
Process, movement and materials have always fascinated me. And I have always loved factory tours because I am interested in how things are made, whether it’s a winding for a universal motor or a toothpick.
So when I started working on a new book, I decided to document the process for people who are interested in how our books get made. There is some risk. It might bore you. It might convince you that what we do is so easy that you should start a competing publishing company and put us out of business. Or you might conclude you’re buying books from a remarkably furry wackjob.
I have a couple requests when it comes to this series. Please don’t be offended if I don’t reply to your comment or take your advice about the content of this book. I already don’t have enough time to reply to every message sent my way. And I receive so much unsolicited advice, criticism and “youshoulds” that it’s almost like I’m a woman on the Internet.
So let’s rewind the tape to October 2019 when I decided to write this book. A few blog entries should catch us up to where I am today: actively building and photographing.
Two things to know about my book ideas. One, I usually can remember the exact moment the idea came to me. “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” came to me while on a long run in Maine; “Campaign Furniture” began in a now-defunct antiques store in Charleston, S.C.
And two, none of my books have ended up like I first envisioned them.
This new book started out when I was browsing a book of Danish vernacular furniture in our library titled “Danske Bondemøbler” by Axel Steensberg. Suzanne Ellison had either sent the book to me or recommended it. In any case, I turned to the section on chairs and was fascinated by how the forms were so familiar and yet still foreign.
I put the book down and searched for folk chairs on the Internet from countries other than the U.K. and Ireland. Were basic stick chairs a significant part of other cultures? Of course, the answer is yes. Driving sticks into a plank to make a seat is a fundamental construction that appears almost anywhere you have sticks and planks.
My first idea was to publish a series of books, one for each culture. The books would be the same size and approach that John Brown took in “Welsh Stick Chairs.” First explain the history of the chair as it relates to the culture. Explore the different chair forms and their defining characteristics. Then show how to build a representative example.
Perhaps, I thought, I could publish one of these books per year. All with different-colored covers. Keep going until I run out of cultures or energy.
When I was at journalism school, one of the lessons I learned is that the first paragraph you write to a story usually sucks. And the second paragraph is usually trying to obscure the flaws of the first paragraph. The third paragraph is usually the true beginning to your story. Jettison the first two grafs. Don’t try to fix them.
The same goes with book ideas. I knew within minutes that this idea was a non-starter. A Dane should write a book on Danish chairs. A Swede should write a book on Swedish chairs. I was not the right person to do a series of books on cultures that I knew only from books and as a tourist.
But I also knew that there was something to my idea that I could use. But I didn’t know what it was just yet.
For me, the solution to this problem is to take long walks or even longer drives in the car.
— Christopher Schwarz
Read other posts from the “Making Book” series here.