Relaxing with Morris, I don’t think so….

As the song goes, “I’m type of guy who likes to run round….” although my idea of runnin’ around is most likely very different. I am an admitted work alcoholic, and no matter how much I try to relax and get away from working, I just can’t do it. You can see finger nail tracks coming from my shop where I have been dragged out kicking and screaming. I have to do something constructive, and even if I am not working with my hands, I have a woodworking book in my lap or a woodworking TV show on the tele.

A long time ago, I used to think that I could be a stay at home father. It did not take me long to figure out that a fish would have a better chance at riding a bike. I am not ADD mind you, but there are so many things that have to be done. My wife could sit in the kid’s playroom and just watch the kids play for hours. Me, no way! I can sit and read for long periods of time, but I must do something constructive or else that ‘ol guilt gland starts working hard injecting streams of guilt juice into the system.

So what does this have to do with anything? Today is my day-off from the day job. So what I am doing? Not sitting still! I have two commission jobs which I am waiting for customer feedback, so both are on hold. So I went over a Hand Tool School lesson and cleaned up my shop (which it really needed). Besides, I have a student coming over on Sunday, so I like the shop to be neat for safety sake.

Yesterday was a good day in the shop. I spend most of the day turning. I made a nice lidded box made of olive wood and walnut, and I made a nice bowl of osage orange. The bowl was a green wood turning but I made the bowl walls nice and thin, so it is already dry. I think I am going to try a Watco Danish Oil finish with a good wax top coat for the osage orange bowl. I still have not found the perfect finish my turned bowls. What’s your favorite finish for bowls?

And now for something completely different….

I read a quote from William Morris that has left me pondering for a long time. “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

A little background first, William Morris was an English textile designer, artist, writer, and socialist associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the English Arts and Crafts Movement. Most people who know furniture, know his name via the “Morris Chair.”

William Morris

Every time I think about that quote, my brain starts to project that little hour-glass. Why? First, I love the ideal of it. When I think of Frank Lloyd Wright houses and Greene & Greene houses, this quote certainly holds true. Sometimes I would really like to live in a house made by either of them; totally furnished, decorated, and landscaped by them. However, would it become like a beautiful prison after a while with nothing that ever changes? That is one to ponder on during a road trip.

I am also enamored by traditional Japanese homes. As David Mathias stated in his book, Greene & Greene, Poems of Wood and Light, “In Japan, Morris’ “or” would be replaced with “and” so that only useful objects that were also beautiful would meet the standard.” Once again, an ideal that I would love to embrace. But man alive, I think I would have to throw out half the crap in my house! After all, can you really have a beautiful kitty litter box filled with turds?

When I think of Morris’ quote, I wonder who can live by that standard? People with money and no kids most likely. So sometimes I find the quote somewhat “elitist.” But on the other hand, in Japan, it seems like the quote was somewhat of a cultural standard. From my limited experience and learning about Japanese culture, the Japanese are much more conformist than people in the United States. We have become more of a “do whatever the h_ll you want society.”

As much as I fantasize about turning the Bar Am Estate (hahaha) into a Greene & Greene style house on the inside, one factor stands up and shouts, what about the Children (and pets). Children are energy vampires, they suck the life out of you along with everything in your wallet (even if it is an electronic wallet). I have more than once threatened my wife and kids, that if one tiny mark appears on this (that thing I am pointing too), the cats will become outdoor cats and or stuffed. I don’t think you could keep a beautiful house nice when the kinderlach Bar Am rolls through your home. It is not that they are bad or purposely destructive, they are just kids. And as we all know, kids will be kids, and things just happen. My in-laws have a lovely home and I always feel somewhat sorry for them when Hurricane Bar Am blows through for some holiday. We leave a wake of destruction where ever we go. Once in a while, when you step into their room whilst they are asleep, and you gaze upon those little faces, you do see something beautiful and useful.

A couple of years ago, I went to see a financial planner. After a review of my assets and future tuition costs along with Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, braces, weddings, etc…., my financial planner laid out a plan for me. I only need to work another eighty years, then I can retire. So I have marked my 2087 calendar to start building my dream interior. It’s good to have goals.



About yaakov

Husband, Abba, Furniture Maker, Turner, Bookseller, and all around working stiff.
This entry was posted in In Yaakov's Workshop and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Relaxing with Morris, I don’t think so….

  1. bob says:

    I use lacquer and wax on most of my bowls, some times poly. I have a two year old grandson that we call hurricane for just cause.

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