Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dear Matt,

water stone slurry.


I get asked fairly often What inspires me.
what books I read, what blogs I follow.
To answer in detail about my source of inspiration you’ll have to wait until my next book is finished but for now here’s some dialogue between a reader and I this afternoon.

From Matt.

Hi Tom,
I would like to start by saying that I have thoroughly enjoyed your book over the past two years. It has completely changed my view of the craft and inspired me to begin using hand tools. Like you and many others I began with power tools because that is how almost all of the books and publications are focused. But, as I’ve started to learn about hand woodworking and the relationship with the material, I think I’ve become a true convert. It is just so much more enjoyable to not have the dust collector running with a respirator on and ear plugs in!

I can say that I really enjoy the pieces in your book and can’t wait to work my way through them. But, where do you find design inspiration from? I know this is a highly subjective question. I can say that for myself, there is nothing more inspiring than nature. For example, fall leaves, a lone tree proudly standing out in a field, a small stream running through the woods. These things are beautiful, but because of the way I think, I’m not really sure how to harness this inspiration and put it into the projects that I’m working on. I can say say that in the basic form, I enjoy shaker furniture with its clean lines and simplicity, but I also enjoy the Greene and Greene style with its curves and natural forms.
I would like to know if you could recommend any books on design, or share some of your knowledge with someone that has very little experience in that side of woodworking. I would thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to come to Toronto and discuss design with you, but as a university student without a car, that isn’t possible at this time. However, if you could point me in the right direction, it would be appreciated.
Thank you,

my reply:

very cool- thanks again.
this is pretty much what my next book is about- so your timing is perfect.
no coincidence-; )
I find my days are spent reading about the ‘politics’ of craft and sometimes not enough about the pure inspiration.
seriously, from the changing leaves outside my window to a reissue 25th anniversary copy of Blade Runner and everything in between!
what I’ve read lately and would recommend?
always all the Krenov but that almost goes without saying !
seriously, I pick them up every week.
If you’re after actual pieces and tangible shapes then try the Museum websites.


They have everything documented. I love the resource they offer.
If you’d like to read about the ‘reason’ and ‘thought process’ of design try David Pye…the Nature and Art of Workmanship. it can get heavy pretty quickly but that’s a good thing sometimes !
I’m currently reading a book on Wabi Sabi as well as the Unknown Craftsman by Bernard Leach and I can’t put it down.
Living in down town Toronto is pretty sweet for designers as well. I can’t walk outside my door without having the option ( and sometimes not ) of having design and art flashing every where I look.
That said, even in a forest with no one around for miles it can be easy to see the beauty in the things around us and somehow through that process we are inspired to work..from there the rest is grey skies…the shape are like songs, no idea where they come from- they fall out of the sky….but without going too far off track, in the day to day we as a society of people need to start making the harsh decisions and look for the ‘good stuff’.
that’s the real secret.
all the best with it and feel free to write with questions as you work down the crazy path of hand tools and splinters.
this is honestly what I love to do and don’t mind talking about it one bit !