Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why I enjoy building custom furniture

I get to write letters like this:

[names have been changed to protect the innocent]

Dear Jane,

I want to thank you for your time this morning. It was very kind of you to welcome me into your home, and I appreciate that. And while I think it falls into another kind of category, I want to thank you for welcoming me into your project. One of the joys of building (or commissioning) custom furniture is that you’re allowed to design and have built exactly what you want, the way you want it built. I realize that this can be hard sometimes, and very intimidating, because the visions in our mind’s eye aren’t always as thoroughly detailed as we’d like.
If the image you have in your mind is of a wooden table with wrought iron legs, I’d like to help you flesh out that image, and help you fill in some of the details. I liked the sketches you had for the legs, and I feel like I owe you an apology if you felt like I was dismissive of the idea. It didn’t occur to me until now to ask or offer this, but if you’d like, we can sit down again (at your house, or mine) and play with the details a little more. I can sketch out variations on the design you showed me for the legs, with different curves and proportions, both on their own, and with a mocked-in top. That way you can see how different proportions work against each other, and with the table. It’s hard to offer a concrete “I want THIS,” sort of answer sometimes. But that doesn’t mean I can’t provide some options for you to choose from. It’s easier sometimes to figure out what you like or want by ruling out the things you don’t like or want, or which ones you like more. And once we have a better idea of what that is, we’ll have an easier time with the wrought iron guys, because I can give them a full size working drawing of the curves you decide on, for both tables. It gives us a better working position if we can give them all the details when they’re commissioned for their part. Please let me know how your meeting goes with them.
In a similar vein, I can come back with some corrugated cardboard pieces once your chair comes home from the upholsterers. We can cut the cardboard up to play with the angle for the wedge table, and figure out what shape you’d like it to be.
My hope is that we can arrive at designs that you really like. The way this is supposed to work is that with your inspiration, and my perspiration and know-how, we come to a design that really makes you feel good about the process. I’d really like to be able to build tables that are genuinely yours. If I build them, I’d rather deliver something to you that is made from your own ideas and decisions, instead of something you had to pick out of what was offered. I’d like you to be able to be proud of these tables, and happy to see them in your home.
Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.

All my best.

James

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This is the joy of the custom furniture builder... and of my life as a builder and educator. I get to help people to create elements of a life that they envision for themselves. For clients, I am the hands and the process that helps to manifest their ideas. As an author, or a teacher, I help people understand how to care for and use their tools to pursue a life or hobby where they are empowered to shape and craft the world around them as they wish to shape it. I get to be the link between the idea and the realization of people's desires. I get to help them find their way to making something that's theirs.

It's a nice idea that all men are created equal, but the truth of it is that we all have different strengths. I get to be the guy who helps people figure out what they want, and helps them to get it. It's a pretty rare gift, and I think it's pretty cool.

Happy Wednesday.

1 comment:

Jessie King said...

Ah, so what I meant to leave as a comment before is that I love the fact that you are craftsman both with wood and with words. Keep writing! I feel a book in your future...