Earlier today I heard the song “I Will Remember You” by Sarah Mclachlan just before I got home from work, which is something of a coincidence because last week a video of Ed Helms-aka Andy Bernard-of The Office singing this very song for whatever reason popped up while doing a web search, and I watched it and enjoyed it. As songs go, I neither love it nor do I hate it, and while I think it’s a good song it’s not one that you will find on my iPod. However, for whatever reasons, the song got me to thinking about my own mortality. Maybe that sounds morbid; hell, it is morbid, but in my defense it was a grey, dreary afternoon.
As I entered my living room, the first thing I did was place my wallet and keys on the hall table I made last year. While that table is not a particularly impressive table as far as woodworking design is concerned, it’s a nice looking table that I made specifically for the space it sets in. A good deal of the furniture I made in the past few years currently sits in the 12 x 18 foot space that is my living room: the television stand, the end tables, the hall table, and the magazine cabinet. Not far away is a book shelf that I made. As with the hall table, the rest of the furniture is nice (if I do say so) but nothing you’re going to be reading about in an encyclopedia a hundred years from now. However, the furniture is well made and will probably be in use for the rest of my years, and I like to think that when I’m gone my family will look at those pieces of furniture and remember fondly who made them.
You all may want to stop reading at this point, I’m going to warn you now, and please do acknowledge that you’ve been warned…
Just as I sat down to write this post, I almost universally hated everything I’ve been reading lately about woodworking. I’m not talking about how to saw a dovetail, or how to tune up your table saw, but every piece of woodworking philosophy I’ve ever read. You know why? I’ll tell you. I’m tired of “the craft”. I’m tired of hearing what is good for “the craft”. How about this: Fuck the craft. I personally think if you woodwork for “the future of the craft” you are a warped person. I think you are messed up. I think you need a psychologist. I think you are a pathological narcissist. I don’t think you enjoy woodworking, and I think you are woodworking to impress somebody else, and I think that is sick. Worst of all, I am seeing it everywhere.
My kid keeps coloring books and crayons in the drawer of one of the end tables I made for our living room. One day in the future, maybe thirty years from now, my daughter will come across that table, and maybe she will think of me. It’s possible that thirty years from now I won’t be here anymore; I don’t know. I bet, either way, that she will think of her dad when she looks at that table, and I like to think it will be a very happy memory. She will not care one bit if I used mortise and tenon joinery, or fully blind dovetails, or if it’s held together with glue and brad nails. Maybe “the craft” will care, and that’s why I hate it. The “craft” sounds to me like a judgmental old man who walked up hill both ways to school. The “craft” is a dick. The “craft” is a bitter and angry, small-minded person. The “craft” never had a fun day in its life. The craft is a cry baby. If all it takes to kill the “craft” is Ikea and a pocket-hole jig then the “craft” deserves to die a painful and slow death.
Here it is, I hope “the craft” does die. I don’t want to hear about it anymore. If it’s on life support, like everybody claims it is, then let’s take it off. Let’s put it into a coffin and strap it to a raft and fire flaming arrows at it, cause if you aren’t woodworking for yourself, who are you woodworking for? A guy who died 300 years ago? Are you trying to impress him? Or maybe it’s “the future”? Maybe I want to teach my daughter that the past is more important than the present. Maybe I should stress to her that those tables I made for the living room shouldn’t be a happy memory from her childhood, but they should be judged on the crispness of the dovetails on the drawers.
Maybe if “the craft” dies then woodworking will be fun again and woodworkers won’t care anymore if their neighbor’s coffee table is from Ikea. Maybe if it dies woodworkers will make furniture because they really just enjoy doing it. Maybe if it dies I won’t have to read another suck-ass nostalgia soaked article on why we aren’t doing it right. And maybe woodworkers will stop building monuments to the past, and start making actual furniture again.