As a woodturner, I have seen my work go from about being about to about being more complex. I don’t quite know what happened to make that change, but I just simply lost the interest (for now) in making simple things.
I found it pretty funny, since I began turning for the exact opposite reason. I could go to the lathe and make something that was pretty nice (by my standards at that time) in an hour. I had started in woodworking via the traditional means of making furniture and boxes, and I was frustrated that you had all of these things you needed (tools, wood, finish) to be “just so” or the finished product would be less than perfect. As a frugal person, spending a lot of time and money to make something that I didn’t love seemed pretty stupid.
So I started turning wood for the very simple reason that it was fast. And the wood was free (it grows on trees where I live :-)! How can you beat free and fast?! I made a few hundred bowls and a few hundred hollowforms and probably a hundred pens. I bought all kinds of books and studied others work to the point where I could probably produce most of it.
Then, a couple of things happened. The first was simple boredom. I could turn another bowl, but why? I have stacks of them scattered throughout the house, and most of the people I know also do too.Secondly, I went to few events and saw other people’s work, and realized that there were a few hundred guys who were stuck in a rut like I was- producing good, but boring stuff. And then there were a few that weren’t…
A couple of pretty well know turners made comments that changed my perception of my own work. Granted, I use the word work to describe what I do for fun in my garage, but I still think of it as a form of work because I do work at getting better at this craft.
The first turners was Keith Tompkins, who told me that until I put something personal in my work, it would never truly be mine. For an “artist” to be connected to the work, it does require something intimate about that person to be present and I needed to think about what makes me… me.
The second turner was Harvey Fein, who saw one of my pieces, and thought it was a great copy of another well known turner’s work. I contacted that turner, and he said that he thought the work was good, but also was missing the connection to my soul. Without MY personal experience in the work, I would always have this problem.
What does this have to do with time? Well, it seems that it takes me a lot longer to get finished with my “work” these days. Most pieces have at least 6-10 hours on the lathe, and at least as many hours off the lathe in finishing. What used to be “how many things can I make today?” is now “how many steps on this one (or more pieces) can I complete today?” Occasionally, I’ll probably turn a basic bowl or something, perhaps as a gift or just because, but I don’t know if I’ll ever look at my time in the shop the same way again.