“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say "It is yet more difficult than you thought." This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
― Wendell Berry
I came to woodworking out of necessity, after years of jogging around what to me is now a clearly outlined trajectory. I had been working framing houses, and decided one day that I wanted to learn how to carve a bowl. My dad had done some woodworking so there were some tools around. I pulled out a gouge and found a piece of dry hickory and a stump to carve it on. I remember this clearly, driving the gouge into the hickory with a mallet and the gouge sticking in every time and finally me getting frustrated and the gouge flying off the piece of wood and into my leg. Clearly this was going to be more difficult than I thought. I put the gouge and mallet and wood away. I knew I was going to need some help.
I look back now, ten years later, and laugh at the absurdity of what I was doing. I would never carve a bowl out of dry wood, especially hickory. But even now, in all of its absurdity, I recognize early on a decision I was already learning to make without even being aware of it: proper wood selection, tool selection and, most importantly, where to receive proper instruction. In the past ten years I have been able to study with some of the best craftsmen and women working today: Jim Sannerud in Minnesota, Jared Stone-Dahl in Wisconsin, Roger Abrahamson, Curtis Buchanan, Carl Swensson, Robin Wood, Kenneth Kortemeier , Drew and Louise Langsner at Country Workshops in North Carolina, and most importantly, Lissa Hunter in Portland, Maine. “Trust the Process,” she told me over and over, and I have. It is safe to say that for 3 or 4 years I threw away as much work as I kept. But I always trusted that what I was going through was the same thing countless craftsmen and women have gone through before me and now, ten years later, I have a product I can stand by.
I make functional tableware. Spoons, bowls, cups, rice buckets, cutting boards. All are born out of thousands of years of tradition and well considered elements of function and design. All are handmade. They are not sanded and come finished with the clean marks made by a sharp tool. Some items I keep in stock and some are made to order. Some are finished naturally and some are finished with various pigments. ALL are food safe and meant for use. With the purchase of my work comes the guarantee that the item is made to last and that the person who made the item was not chained enslaved to the machine where the item was born. I do this work because I want to. The day it is no longer my passion I will go off and do something else. Careful thought goes into each piece that I make, and the price of my items directly reflects the care and consideration involved.
Since I first started making things ten years ago, one important question continues to arise: How do we create out of chaos, out of confusion and doubt and sorrow or even joy the things that give our lives any sort of meaning? I am fortunate enough every day to work towards some semblance of an answer: within traditional craft is a form and structure that helps to serve as a guideline while I seek to find my own voice. Within a piece of wood already exists the object I am trying to create, if I am skilled enough to bring it into existence. Within every bowl or cup I turn there is a little bit of my own narrative, however subtle, and this is something I can share with those who choose to purchase my items. I hope you enjoy the things I make for years to come.
Take This Bread / Nathaniel Chambers