This month, for our LJ eMag, we meet with Todd A Clippinger and learn a bit about his woodworking journey.
1. How did you find LumberJocks and what was the key feature of the site that kept you coming back?
Not long after I bought my computer I was talking with my local tool supplier about some ideas that I had for doing woodworking videos online. He told me about this guy that calls himself the “Wood Whisperer” who was doing video.
When I checked out Marc Spagnuolo's site, I found the link to LumberJocks. The world-wide community is just incredibly generous and friendly, that is what kept me coming back.
2. Tell us a brief history of your woodworking journey
My woodworking journey has it’s roots in my remodeling career. I was doing a lot of work on older homes from the 1920’s and 30’s and I always loved the original style trim work and built-ins. I was usually tearing out poorly matched remodels from the 70’s and 80’s that had been inflicted on these beautiful old homes and I often needed to fabricate the trim myself. It was here that I developed my hand and tool skills.
To understand what I was working on, I looked into architectural history and discovered the Arts&Crafts movement, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, the Prairie School, Greene&Greene plus the key figures associated with the styles. Then I found out there were contemporary woodworkers interpreting these styles in a modern vernacular and I was hooked.
3. I can often tell when a project is one of yours; what do you think defines a “Todd A Clippinger” piece?
This is kind of a hard question for me to answer. It almost needs to be someone on the outside looking in to point out what it is that says “Todd A. Clippinger.” My work goes from a Shaker bench to a very contemporary closet design. But there is something about it that all ties together.
Often, there is a certain way an individual interprets materials and assembles elements that creates a personal style. I love contemporary interpretations or a modern style that reflects a traditional one. I love curves and arches, when appropriate I try to get them into my work.
4. Your work is very artistic, where do you get your inspiration?
I am greatly influenced by the study I have done of the historical figures and movements. The influence may or may not be directly seen in the project, but it is always in my head interacting as I design.
My wife and I visit art galleries and we know a lot of artists that work in various mediums. Talking to them is stimulating to my creative process.
My best ideas and design solutions seem to occur when I am taking a walk with my wife and the dogs. There are all these influences and logged ideas in my head and they seem to breakthrough on their own when I relax and am just enjoying time out with Rita and watching our happy dogs run.
5. What do you find to be the most challenging part of woodworking and what is the most rewarding?
In building a freestanding piece of furniture it is easy to figure out a pleasing proportion and there is a freedom of expression. But I am usually working with a specific set of parameters such as space, style, and budget. The most challenging aspect is to come up with a design that fits all of these requirements at the same time.
The most rewarding part is reaching that break through moment when I nail it with a good design and it fits all of the requirements. The project as a whole is a visual, tactile, and cerebral experience that is satisfying in every way and happy clients are a great part of the reward.
6. What is your “most” favourite project created to date?
I am emotionally attached to all of my projects, but the one I am most fond of is the Mahogany Sofa Table. This was the first project that I really expressed myself and would consider it to be on the higher plane of fine woodworking and design.
I made the table for my wife, Rita, and we have it here in the house. It is such an easy piece to look at, I really nailed it with interpretation of materials and the proportions. It was part of the portfolio that got me juried into the 2007 Western Design Conference.
7. Where can people find you on the internet (website etc)?
The website is very static because it’s primary function is an online portfolio for potential clients. I have more work on display at LumberJocks.
8. What is the biggest tip you can give people starting their journey into woodworking?
Spend lots of time in the shop and less on the computer.
As you are building in the shop, many things are happening. Hand-eye coordination and muscle memory is developing which creates skill. A sense of understanding for volume, mass, and proportions will develop as you build as opposed to just drawing. Also, greater creativity will be generated as the principle “One Idea Begets Another” occurs.
9. Anything else you’d like to share with your fellow LumberJocks?
Don’t be afraid to push your personal limits on a technical and creative level.
I have had some redo’s in my projects and had to figure out some master level repairs for situations that have gone awry. But everything has pushed my work and skills to the next level.
-- ~ Debbie, Canada (http://www.execulink.com/~yohan)