Is your woodworking meant as a way to express yourself or just something that is functional?

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Forum topic by woodenwarrior posted 05-15-2015 03:33 AM 1645 views 0 times favorited 41 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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226 posts in 2131 days

05-15-2015 03:33 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I have a favorite quote of many,” functionless art is simply tolerated vandalism” – Type O Negative

I am an artist. I didn’t start off working wood as an art form. I have painted since I was a child with my father as my mentor. I started woodworking as a means to an end….I needed furniture that was sturdy and was built with my own needs in mind. My woodworking has since evolved and I find myself spending more time discovering how I can place my own sense of artistry into a piece of furniture I build.

Do you find your woodworking to be a way to express yourself or merely a means to creating something functional?

-- Do or do not...there is no try - Master Yoda

41 replies so far

View TheFridge's profile


9120 posts in 1423 days

#1 posted 05-15-2015 03:38 AM

Mainly functional, but having something look awesome is a bonus.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Beams37's profile


166 posts in 1127 days

#2 posted 05-15-2015 03:38 AM

I generally try to make things that are functional or will test/develop my skills.

-- FNG ... On a quest for knowledge.

View PASs's profile


595 posts in 3035 days

#3 posted 05-15-2015 03:44 AM

And if I’m lucky, both in the same piece.

-- Pete, "It isn't broken, you just aren't using it right."

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1817 posts in 1906 days

#4 posted 05-15-2015 11:31 AM

That’s an excellent question.

I live as an artist per se. I am a working guitarist and music teacher. To reach the realm of artist I think there needs to be a large degree of practice first. As a guitarist I feel more and more comfortable calling myself an artist. I have practiced and performed countless hours now to date since I was 12 years old. So I have been putting in many hours a day for the past twenty years now.

As a woodworker, I am simply a builder at this point. I try to push into the realm of art and beauty, but I am nowhere near being an artist. I don’t have the practice yet. I am simply a functional builder, even if I try to be an artist

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View thechipcarver's profile


214 posts in 1515 days

#5 posted 05-15-2015 12:34 PM


-- While teaching a class, a gentlemen once asked me: "When chip carving an intricate design, what do you do when you are almost finished and the wood breaks off?" I replied "Cover the kids ears."

View ste6168's profile


252 posts in 1108 days

#6 posted 05-15-2015 12:43 PM

Function, but I certainly wouldn’t want my stuff to look ugly.

View mahdee's profile


3853 posts in 1704 days

#7 posted 05-15-2015 12:46 PM

I force my imagination into the structure and most of the time it is functional as well. To make the same thing twice, for me is torture but on rare occasions I’ll do it with minimum modification. And if someone ask me to make them something they have seen in a picture, the answer would be no because even if it was a table made out of 2×4’s and plywood, I would screw it up. Unless the project present a challenge, I normally stay away.


View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10268 posts in 3365 days

#8 posted 05-15-2015 01:06 PM

Art is in the eye of the builder. I don’t build with others in mind. Even if the build is for someone else. I build to satisfy me.

And, your quote is great. Although, if a work fulfills it’s role as art, it must evoke a response in the viewer. That is it’s function.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View JayT's profile


5556 posts in 2148 days

#9 posted 05-15-2015 01:13 PM

Woodworking is a way for me to create and do. I wouldn’t call it art or even necessarily always functional.

My job mostly involves sitting at a computer, so there generally isn’t any sense of having done something at the end of the day—just some electrons moved around. With woodworking, it allows my hands to create an actual physical piece, which is much more fulfilling.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View Kyle Nelson's profile

Kyle Nelson

52 posts in 1251 days

#10 posted 05-15-2015 02:12 PM

JayT, you took the words right out of my mouth. I work in consulting, so best case scenario on a good day at work, I saved a giant corporation some money. I build because I need to create something worthwhile.

View MrRon's profile


4676 posts in 3180 days

#11 posted 05-15-2015 02:20 PM

My engineering side says functional, but my artistic side says self expression. I try to do both, but usually end up in the former.

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

7828 posts in 2265 days

#12 posted 05-15-2015 02:38 PM

I like the design philosophy of the Shakers….

“Don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.”

I’ve never made anything in the shop that wasn’t functional…. but that doesn’t mean I poo-poo those who do.

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4882 posts in 3897 days

#13 posted 05-15-2015 02:45 PM

“Beautiful” does not describe nor compliment excellence.
That quote is from the White Book of Barnyard Philosophy. You are welcome to quote me at any time.


View HornedWoodwork's profile


222 posts in 1151 days

#14 posted 05-15-2015 04:43 PM

I’ve always said that woodworking is the perfect marriage of form and function. Things which look great but don’t work properly are frustrating, things that work well but look odd get hidden, and ultimately, not used. There is a lot of artistry in selecting grain, matching parts, making and assembling shapes, but good design needs engineering and vice versa.

-- Talent, brilliance, and humility are my virtues.

View timbertailor's profile


1594 posts in 1361 days

#15 posted 05-15-2015 04:50 PM

There is definitely an art to great design. There also a good degree of skill to make something look proportional, well fitted, proper selection of materials, reflects technique closer to cabinetry or fine furniture, and finish detail that takes extra time and effort.

You can just tell when you see someone’s work if you have been doing this long enough.

But, if you do not take pride in your work, or care what it looks like, then it is reflected in the end product. And whether you like it or not, it is a reflection of the creator.

-- Brad, Texas,

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