the Carpentry Way: The Weight of the Wait                                                          

The Weight of the Wait

So, as I wrote in the previous post describing my experiences at a recent furniture show, it would appear be hard to know whether I could measure it a success for some time yet. I didn't sell anything at the show, and I had met some great people, some of whom told me it might take three shows in a row before sales started coming along.

Well, they were wrong. I just got a commission today to build a dining table!! Yahoo!! I was shocked, though the client was definitely over-the-top keen on the joinery and designs I showed him at the show, and I am pumped, to say the least, that this client is so enthused about my work. And he has the resources to make it happen too, which is not an insignificant detail.

This table is not just any old table. It is going to be based on a 16th century Ming Dynasty piece which have been obsessing/drooling over for years and long contemplating building for myself. I was going to build it for myself because I doubted I would ever find a client who would be interested in such a highly complex piece, one with loads of concealed joinery. In fact, I had started drawing the table out on SketchUp a couple of weeks back, thinking that a couple of planks I had on hand might just make the beginnings of a nice dining table.

This table had a completely novel constructional system. It's absolutely unique. It's frame and panel, but doesn't look like it. It looks like a big slab of wood forms the top, but appearances are deceptive. It's not veneered - you know I don't do veneering. I'll explain more about the constructional details of the piece later on, but in my mind this table was so far ahead of its time, such a work of inspired genius on the part of the unknown craftsman who created it, that I was wondering if an advanced alien race on a spaceship had in fact visited China in the 16th century and revealed a few tricks. I'm only kidding here, sorta. The construction of this table blows my mind, and I have never seen it for real only in a couple of photos. I will do my best to honor the genius who created it with this dining table. It is to seat 10, so it will be the largest table I have made to date.

I need to check in with the client to see if he is cool with me doing a blog on the build. Hopefully he will be supportive.

In other news, the bell tower project planning and negotiating is still churning along, and the client in California has indicated he wants me to take care of all the project details, as he has come to realize how complicated many of those details are and that he would only be slowing the process down by being in the middle of that. So I'm starting in earnest to look at sourcing/pricing the wood, and may even be taking a trip to Alaska in the next while to look at some Yellow Cedar logs. A lot on the plate all of a sudden. Whew! It beats having little to do and worrying about when the next project might materialize of course, but sometimes these transitions can be abrupt. Holy crap - a lot of work lies ahead!

The lesson I take from this is that even though work has been scarce the past couple of years and a few choice looking projects have fallen through or been put on extended holds due to funding constraints, my constant drive to develop my carpentry by study and making models, by making speculative pieces like the lantern and tsuitate - and not for a 'market' but because I really liked the forms of those pieces - and by doing various exploratory drawing designs (one of which led to this table commission), and by taking financial risks like the recent show, by doing talks on Japanese carpentry, etc, well, it has really paid off. Fortunately, things seem to have worked out and justified my strategy, though even I had my doubts at times. At least for the near future, creative juices can flow and I can express my craft.

I did seriously start to consider a job at a hardware store to bring in some $$$, so I have made a close escape from a job I wouldn't be so excited (or particularly qualified) to do for the time being. I have to also credit friends and family for their support in recent times, both emotional, financial, and otherwise. And one more point - moving out to a new place means it can take a while to get established and that marketing is crucial when no one knows who you are. It's taken me two years on the east coast of the US to get things going.

'It's hard to count on anything' seems to be a common lament among those who craft things for a living, and it is so true. For the next year, plus some, however, I've got a pretty full slate and a couple of absolute dream projects to engage with. Sweet! I feel very lucky indeed, and I also believe that 'luck' sometimes is when preparation meets opportunity.

All for now. If you're struggling for work right now, or in a job you'd rather not be doing, how are you preparing for the future?