Monday, July 20, 2015

Wooden Knives

Somehow the years keep speeding up, and though it only seems like two months ago I did my last craft show, it is actually only 2 1/2 months until the next one, which means to say nearly a year has  gone by. I know I am not getting older, but they they keep changing what year it is on me!

Anyway, since my next show is fast approaching, and the table project is coming to an end, it is time to start making some things for the show in October. I will also be doing another show in November this year, so it would definitely be good to get some things done to sell. Most people who come to these shows are probably not intending to walk away with a buffet or a corner cabinet, therefore small items which can be carried away are the order of the day. Last year I did some rolling pins, and these were well received; more are planned for this year, but I tried to think of what else I could make. This blogging will be about what I came up with.

Some of the knives I have been working on
Each one of these takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes to make.

This was actually meant to be last weeks blog, but my memory card for the camera decided it was done, so I lost all the pictures which I took of the process of making these. The end of this week found me feverishly working on some designs which I must present to a prospective client on Monday. I was also in a couple meetings, one with a current client, and one with a tool collectors club I belong to. Nonetheless, I wanted to share these knives and discuss a point which is relevant to just about any artist or craftsman,

As I said, the main purpose of creating these knives is an attempt to make something which people can buy and take home with them at my craft shows. The challenge is to make something that looks beautiful but does not cost too much. I could carve leaves and vines curling up the length of these handles, and they would look even more beautiful, but then who could afford to buy them. I believe that in the 18th century, artists nearly put themselves out of business and helped spur on both the wars of that time period and the Industrial Revolution. "How?" you ask. Because, by creating all the incredibly ornate and lavishly decorated items, they set a standard of luxury that only the wealthiest of people could afford. This created jealously among ordinary people, and it caused inventive people to come up with ways of producing things more cheaply.

Time is, and always has been, money. When people go to museums and look in awe at the wonderful things produced by such craftsmen as David Roentgen and Johann Heinrich Riesener, they usually fail to grasp that these pieces would have cost millions of dollars in today's money; only kings dukes and bishops could afford to buy them, In a world where people no longer spend that sort of money for furnishings, an artist must curb his creative energy to suit the market which he is creating for.

A desk made by Riesener for Louis XV
(from Wikipedia)

In a world where ridiculously cheep items are produced en mass in places like China, people have a still greater lack of a sense of value in things. I have seen furniture sell in stores for less money than the local cost of the timber it would require to produce them. I recently spent two days turning and carving a candle stick, and showed it to someone I know who owns a second-hand furniture store. He showed me a fairly nice carved set of candle stands which came from China and cost 19$ new!

9th century style candle stick,
it took two days (20+hours)
 to make this

As an artist, how do you compete with that? The answer is, you cannot; but you still must try to go on doing what you do, because an artist is what you are. I started this blog in the hopes of sharing myself as an artist with the world, with a goal of educating the public to some of what is involved in the creative process of producing things. A set of 19$ candle stands are not made by artists, they are made by workmen who function as human machines; they sit at a stool all day, mechanically doing the same process on piece after piece. (I have been to Asia and witnessed this process firsthand.) They have done it for so long they are efficient and quick, but their work has no soul or spirit; because they have put none of it into what they have produced. Things produced by an artist are actually a part of him, they are his children, and each item he creates has a bit of his soul passed into it. That is the difference between something made by an artist, and an imported item from a factory. You, as a customer, are paying a premium because you value the spirit which you recognise within the work.

Handles on some of my wooden Knives

Hopefully in October and November, some people will be willing to exchange some of their hard earned money for a little piece of my soul.


  1. The sad fact is fine art is only for the elite to possess. If the masses want to appreciate it they can buy museum tickets I suppose. It is simple economics if artists want to more than starve.

    1. I think that is how most people see it, and I got into a huge argument one day back in college on the topic, but the non "elite" usually manage to find money to buy expensive things that they think need, such as huge TVs and the latest I gadget. It is a matter of priorities and what is important to anyone. Even many of the so called elite, will not spend their money on fine objects and prefer to purchase mass produced cheep rubbish.

    2. Well sure it is priorities. But if they had more money they could have more discretion then too. A lot of nouveau riche folks are so focused on making money, if you look in their big houses, they're empty. So they don't even buy cheap rubbish, they buy stocks, and bonds. Priorities again I suppose.

      The other side of the coin is to make cheap rubbish, to cater to the stingy, and poor. But that is a slippery slope to go down if you are an artist. I know I did not like it when I tried it. Although I guess I liked it a bit more than selling nothing.

  2. I am sure many people will feel the soul in your pieces and appreciate the beauty in them.