When I was 26 I rented a little gray house in a very old south Austin neighborhood. Before I even signed the lease I decided that the overgrown patch of ground adjacent to the quiet street would become my new vegetable garden.
So the last trip on moving day was interrupted by a stop at the hardware store to buy a shovel. Something every man should have unless, like me, he’d lived in downtown seminary housing until about 20 minutes ago.
It would be my very first actual garden and I was happy. Looking b...
So many people are shut up tight inside themselves like boxes, yet they would open up, unfolding quite wonderfully, if only you were interested in them. - Sylvia Plath
“Miss, es no bueno wood, es caca!”
So said Lisa’s tree guy when she asked him to save her a chunk of the enormous limb that was currently lying across her front yard. She’d told him her friend Mark was a woodworker and wanted to make something out of it.
I have a woodworker friend who refuses to work with mesquite. ‘Firewood,’ he calls it. ‘Makes excellent steaks, horrible furniture.’ He has a point.
But as I stood in the lumberyard two days ago with my new clients, helping them choose which slab of wood would make the headboard for their new bed, I was hoping they’d pick the cracked and battered mesquite over the smooth, perfect walnut.
I’m not sure why. I must have a strange draw to broken wood. It probably relates to my affection for broken humans....
We take big pieces of wood, cut them up into little pieces of wood, then glue them back together again to make big pieces. That’s all there really is to making furniture.
I’ve always cherished these words, spoken to me by one of my mentors when I first visited his shop at age 23. A folksy bit of false humility thrown out there to help rescue this calling from all the lofty romantic rhetoric that usually engorges it. There is nothing more charming than when a true master understates his art, like Lyle...
I read an interview with The Edge years ago where he said that before every U2 tour he has to go to a record store (ask your parents) and buy all their albums (ask your hipster uncle) so he can sit down and re-learn the chords to all their songs.
At the time it felt like a tiny bit of quaint, self-deprecating fiction. But now I think it’s probably true. Because next week I’ll be visiting a piece of furniture I made seventeen years ago, so I can figure out how it was made, so I can make it again.