I’m in a rut. I’ve gotten to the point where I can usually produce a hollowform in an hour of two, which means I can make 2-3 a day if I want to, but I really don’t want to. Why? Beacause I don’t want to do “production work”?
What is production work? To me, it’s work where the creativity is decided one time, and then executed many times. We need production work- spindles for staircases, utility bowls- for our every day lives, but it doesn’t feed my creative side. The funny thing is that production turners typically make more money because there is a much larger audience for their work, and it’s easier to sell when you have customers.
But I mean production work in a very different sense that most woodturners don’t really see. I mean it in areas that many see as being creative. If you turn the same wood all of the time, that’s a rut. If you turn the same form all of the time, you are in another rut. If you only turn bowls or spindles, you’ve found yet another rut. And it seems like a very easy trap to fall into.
A couple of years back, I was turning hollowforms almost exclusively. Even worse, the rut had gotten so deep that they were all the same basic shape. The wood didn’t stand a chance. It was going to be a certain shape no matter what the right thing to do with it was. (Look up Procrustean Bed) Then, one day- almost in a fit of anger, I shut the lathe off (and mumbled some bad words) and vocalized that I didn’t want to make “another one of those”. I stood looking at the wood, and decided that the only way to stop myself was to cut away all of the usual bits and make it impossible to produce that form again. Gouge in hand, I turned away a bunch of perfectly good wood, from a perfectly good form, and I made a mess that I was now forced to look at and reevaluate. I don’t remember what happened to that form, but I know what did happen. I had gotten myself out of the rut.
We all need to figure out what makes us happy. I am driven by being different (and original), which is harder to do than being good. Technical proficiency can be achieved with practice and determination. Being original is another story. It involves taking the little bits of yourself and your experience, and putting it into your work. If you keep doing the same things over and over, you will become technically proficient. However, you will also find yourself in that rut. Even if your idea was originally “new”, you eventually become a machine capable of “copying yourself”.
I implore anyone willing to listen- if you are in this wonderful journey called woodturning, try something new today. Be willing to fail- and grow, because you can’t do one without the other.
I’m off to the shop to see what happens…