It’s a bit of a cliché.  You know the situation.  In a car, on a journey with children, and the constant refrain is, “Are we nearly there yet?”.  I’ve experienced this many a time as an adult, but I can’t really remember the emotions of the child posing the question.

Enjoying the journey

As I grew slightly older, I do remember the dawning of the realisation that the journey is sometimes more enjoyable that the destination.  I remember occasions when I was disappointed by arriving.  Times when I would have been happy for the journey to go on and on.

Learning a new craft

Hollowing has begun

Hollowing has begun

There’s something about learning a new craft that is highly reminiscent of childhood.  You put your faith in a trusted guide, and you follow their instructions and advice.  You turn to them when the going gets tough, or you have questions.  Everything is new, and you have no mental map of all the required steps to reach a finished product.  It’s like going on a journey as a small child.

Gouges, straight and bent

Gouges, straight and bent

Are we nearly there?

I started this part of the course looking forward to carving a bowl.  It is physical work, but at the start of day two, I eagerly anticipated finishing my bowl.  I progressed through the different processes, meeting new tools and starting to discover how to make them work.  I’m not sure at what point I became like a small child, but I found myself desperate to know whether I’d finished.  And then the realisations dawned…

  1. I wasn’t going to finish the bowl today
  2. Knowing when to stop, or when something is finished, is a massive skill.  This skill is only acquired through the mastery of a process, and that wasn’t going to happen today.  Maybe I’ll never finish this bowl!

Process and not product

It holds things, ergo it's a bowl

It holds things, ergo it’s a bowl

There’s a massive contraction in learning a new craft.  Most crafts have the ultimate aim of creating a product.  It’s natural to focus on the product, and to want to finish off making it.  It’s normal to use the finished product to judge our progress.

But really to improve at a craft and to begin to master it, the process must become the main focus.  Personally, I know that if I’m too focussed on the final result, I’m more likely to rush through the steps of the process.  I want to finish.  I need to know that I’m nearly there.

Two bowls, one more "nearly there" than the other

Two bowls, one more “nearly there” than the other

Once I can move past that, then I can begin to understand the detail of the process a bit more.  Because I’m not so hung up on the final product, I take more risks with each stage of the making.  Then, I can allow myself to make mistakes, and at that point I can really begin to start learning a new craft.

I hope that there are many more bowls in my future.  Perhaps I’ll never reach the point when I’m a bit disappointed by arriving at the destination of a finished bowl!  But hopefully I’ll mature in the craft enough to really enjoy the journey.

PS – before reaching the final destination

These bowls aren’t finished yet.  First they need to dry.  But they have to dry slowly. As the bowls dry the wood will warp and move.  The rim of the bowl will no longer be flat.  A circular bowl will become more ovoid.  If the bowls dry too quickly, then the wood will have to change shape too rapidly, and at that point they may crack.  We need to put the bowls in a cool place, with a constant temperature.

After the wood is dry, I’ll finish my bowls.  The dry wood will take a smoother finish from the knives.  Hopefully I won’t require sandpaper.