Funny enough, I’ve been “connected” for many years and, being in the software industry, I think I do a pretty good job of staying in the mainstream of technology. I’ve been actively woodworking for about two years now, but it didn’t dawn on me to combine the two until very recently. With that realization, I pulled up some woodworking forums a few weeks ago and started plugging away at them.
I must say, so far I haven’t been too impressed. The first thing I noticed about the biggest of the forums I’d found is that nobody seemed able to offer any kind of constructive criticism about anyone else’s work. What’s more, it didn’t really seem that anyone was LOOKING for constructive criticism… they were mostly looking for validation.
That’s not really the way I like to work; and it’s not really what I want to read about! It doesn’t help the person who created the piece to grow and learn as an artist, and it doesn’t really help me learn as a woodworker! Maybe it comes from my background. During my pursuit of a degree in Art History, I had to fulfill a well-rounded requirement of studio art classes. Even though I went to a liberal arts university, our art classes were anything but the happy-go-lucky-everyone-does-great-work variety. We had peer critiques of our work on a weekly basis and let me tell you, some of my peers were very critical!
As it turns out, it was a good thing. Several years of that kind of feedback is great life experience. It prepared me for the real world where my bosses weren’t always happy with my work! Believe me – it is easier on the writer and the writer’s boss when both understand the definition of “constructive criticism”.
Again, I guess it is just a mindset? I probably shouldn’t have been surprised with the forum… When my wife and I first started dating, it didn’t take me long to figure out she’d never really been exposed to any form of constructive criticism, either. I’m still working on that – baby steps, right?
But the other side of the coin is I have to constantly remind her to tell me what she really thinks about something and not what she thinks I want to hear! We had a breakthrough after I’d cooked a dish the third time and she really hadn’t really like it the first two times. She loves my cooking – when it is something she likes – so that got her started with expressing her dislike for certain foods in more definitive terms in order to keep it off the table in the future.
So what’s my point in this thread of thought? Oh yeah… don’t be offended if you post pictures of a piece, asking for opinions, and I say something other than, “Great Work, Bob!” or “Another fine piece, Jim!”
But I’m not just going to sit there and say, “Wow, John, that sucks!” It isn’t really useful to you and it isn’t good for my karma. It would probably be something more like, “Well… while I do love the look of curly cherry, I think maybe using it in every single part of your nightstand, including the top and the sides and the ship-lapped back and the drawer fronts and the rails and the stiles and the internal partitions, is maybe just a bit much, no matter how simple your design is. On your next night stand, try using the curly cherry as a focal point of one aspect of the piece, like drawer fronts and door panels, and use non-figured cherry for the rest.”
See? Painless! Or close to it, anyway…
-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com