For many years I have been a fan of Joseph Campbell and his writings. One of his most oft-quoted sayings goes:
“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
I have often thought that this “following one’s bliss” required a clear vision, a sense of mission… in short, that I needed to know somehow what “my bliss” was before setting off; that there was some major, life-changing decision I had to make to set a whole train of events in motion that would eventually lead to my bliss. But, as the year have passed, I have become more jaded, cynical, pessimistic and reluctant to take on these kinds of sweeping, new-agey invitations to fulfil my potential and such.
What I am realising more and more is that there is no need of a grand vision – that I make this future real by the little decisions I take day to day. How I respond to people; which sort of jobs I choose to take on and which ones I let go of; how I reach out smiling and so on…
This week I had an incredibly varied week in the workshop:
Sunday night I was in London with my friend Mike to take down the plinths that I made for
Adam Aaronson Glass. I’ve known Mike for some 20yrs, his job is flexible enough that I can often call on him to help me with this sort of jobs: we work well together and have a good time in the process. And so there was me, Mike, Adam and Candice (a colleague of Adam’s – wow! – lovely woman and really good fun) taking down the stand with plenty of banter and good cheer.
On Monday at the workshop John popped in. He’s an ex-student (retired engineer-farmer) and he often visits when he’s passing past the workshop, for a chat and a cup of tea.
We talk about woodwork (he’s got a very nice little workshop and he’s been making lots of bits and pieces for his house over the years – very nice work!) and all sort of other things… in the meantime, I was working on making some little frames to display the glass work of Amanda Glanville, another colleague/friend.
Tuesday I was preparing the timber for a commission: a sideboard in English Oak and Black Walnut for a client. And Kate came in to talk about helping her with a few pieces of MDF to display her lampshades.
Wednesday Shahissta came in. We met at the Grand Design exhibition: she is studying for an interior design course and asked if I could help her develop the designs and the technical drawings for an assignment. And we spent a few hours working together.
Thursday I invited Alex (another ex-student) to come and help me with a job: we needed to cut some 250 wedges for two friends (Tim and Leanne) who are working on a 3D artistic/architectural installation in Dubai on a very tight deadline. I’d already cut some 250 wedges for them the previous week, but they’d realised that they needed more and I didn’t have time to do it – I needed to get on with preparing the oak for the sideboard (remember?)… so Alex got a few hours worth of work out of it.
Friday Matt (a current student at the college, who has helped me on a few projects) asked if he could pop by and use some of our equipment to make a shelf for a neighbour… and I said yes. And Cindy popped in for coffee – she walks past the workshop with her daughter to and from school most days…
And throughout the week Philipp Stummer, who shares the workshop with me, was coming and going, working on his own projects: finishing a kitchen counter in oak and starting a coffee table in birch ply. And I was working on planing and glueing up the oak panels for the sideboard and finishing the little jobs for Amanda and Kate. And solving a making problems for a new commission; at 1am on Thursday I gave up the internet search and decided that I will need to have some hinges made to my specs otherwise the design of the wardrobe for Russell and Bea is not going to work… (so guess what, on Sunday I will be preparing working drawings for the hinges to get a quote from a local engineer)
As I was reflecting on how busy and varied my week had been, I realised that this is exactly the sort of vision I would have liked to have for my workshop, if I’d had a vision to start with… A place where we make good furniture but also a friendly, informal environment, where people can just pop in for a chat, or to discuss an idea… or to say “can you just cut this for me”…
…and I got complimented on my coffee twice this week. And that was only the cheap Lavazza… wait till I decide I can afford to offer them Illy coffee…
When are you coming to visit? Studio Sixteen, 16 Charles Street, Warwick CV34 5LE. Turn off Emscote Ro
ad in Warwick at the traffic lights with the Lord Nelson pub on the corner. That’s Charles Street: we’re about 200yrds on the left, just before the hump of the canal bridge. We work irregular hours but if the shutters are up, we are in and the coffee is on the go (decaf in the afternoon)