Literary Convergence in Woodworking!

Literary convergence. Yup, that’s what it was. Basically, for some strange reason, my dining room table book, my bedside table book, my “sit down” reading material, and now a woodworking show all managed to converge on one related topic. I kinda think of it like all the planets lining up. Besides, who couldn’t resist saying, “Literary Convergence”, at some high brow party.

I will spare you all the boring details, but I will hit the highlights of the convergence. Connection One: I was watching “The Woodwright’s Shop” and the special guest was the North Carolina chairmaker, Elia Bizzarri. The project of a continuous arm rocking chair was interesting in of itself, but I was more interested in Elia’s story about how he became a chairmaker. Elia’s mother went to this master chairmaker, Curtis Buchanan, and convenced him to take her son on as an apprentice. Now, after nine or so years under this master, this young man is one heck of a chair maker. I like the idea of being taken under a master’s wing to learn a trade. Read as many books as you want, see as many videos as you can, you simply can’t learn as much as you can with a master by your side.

Connection Two: I’ve been reading another book about the Arts & Crafts period (surprise suprise) and this excerpt caught my attention:

“The whole basis of the Bauhaus training was to lie in direct workshop experience in the crafts; painting and sculpture were to be regarded in the same light as woodwork, metalwork, typography or weaving. The Bauhaus was to be community of skilled artists and committed to a collaborative effort…The manner of teaching (at the Bauhaus), explained Walter Gropius in 1919, arises from the character of the workshop: organic forms developed from manual skills. Avoidance of all rigidity; priority of creativity; freedom of individuality, but strict study discipline.’ Ruskin’s belief in individual expression remained.

Each workshop had two ‘masters’, as the teaching staff were now known: The students also became ‘apprentices’ or ‘journeymen’. One of the staff-members was the technical master who was in charge of the workshop, the other, the Formmeister, an artist who was responsible for the Form, or design.

Taken from Arts & Crafts Style, pg. 210-211, by Isabelle Anscombe, and published by Phaidon, 1999.

Some pretty famous artist and designers passed through the doors of the Bauhaus during that time. I can only imagine what it must have been like to be in that type of collaborative. On the other hand, I wonder if artistic egos got in the way. I once had a girlfriend who was an artist. Boy did she love Mexican food. Talk about artsy fartsy!

Seriously though, I have read about a number of collaboratives / guilds that tried to make a go of it. Money, or the lack of, seemed to just about kill all of them off. I guess that’s why the formal schools could stay together longer than a guild. How could a guild compete with cheap knockoffs.

Andre Roubo

Connection Three: Monsieur Roubo. I seem to be reading about this 18th century Frenchman a lot lately. André Jacob Roubo was a French cabinetmaker and author who earned that designation in 1774 through the publication of his masterwork treatise on woodworking. He was the son and grandson of Master Cabinetmakers. Can you just imagine learning from your father and grandfather!? Now that is an education!

I’m sure you see the pattern in all of this. Funny how that happens. You’d think with all the woodworking books and other related books I read, this would happen more often.

In summary: If I had an analyst, I guess that they would say that I am just lamenting over the fact that I missed my true calling and that I am subconsciously looking for these coincidences to pine over. And that’s why I fired that smarty pants.


About yaakov

Husband, Abba, Furniture Maker, Turner, Bookseller, and all around working stiff.
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2 Responses to Literary Convergence in Woodworking!

  1. Yeah, the guilds all had a hard time. Have you ever read much about C.R. Ashbee’s guild in England? That’s one that I’d like to know more about. It’s on the list but the list is long…

  2. yaakov says:

    I have certainly seen C.R. Ashbee mentioned a number of times. But most books on the A&C periord seem to skip around a lot. So you will see snippets here and a snippet there, but I do not recall seeing an entire book, or even a chapter for that matter, dedicated to that guild. That being said, there is a book about him that was written in 1908 entitled, “Craftsmanship in Competitive Industry.” The book I referrenced in the blog has a number of snippets about him too.

    That might be a fun project to research. As you can tell by my writing, I am a fan of the guild system. There seems a be a difference between a Union and a guild. Perhaps on my walk to shule I will think about what factors brought about the fall of the guild system. I would presume the Industrial revolution. hummmm.

    Thanks for writing! It is an honor to have you reading my humble musings.


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