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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Following the Strings

So there I was, just finishing up posting a single new sandblasted morta, and suddenly, the strangest creature scurried past! I caught a quick snapshot of it in motion, but before I knew it, it was gone...

I've just finished reading Stephen King's "Lisey's Story". I was looking for a good October scary story, but that was a pretty disappointing choice, being much more of a very sad romance than a horror tale. But it did have one really neat throwaway line regarding the process of creativity, or rather the various processes. The writer in the book describes his writing process as being like wandering through the grass looking for pieces of colorful string. When one catches your eye, you pick it up. If you're lucky, the string will continue and take you somewhere. Some strings are short, others are quite long, and still others terminate abruptly and unexpectedly - A metaphor that describes my pipemaking process perfectly.

I'm always fascinated by the different methods people apply to the creation process of their crafts. Emily, by comparison, is completely different from me in her approach to the briar. She will sketch elaborate engineering designs on blocks, cut out profile patterns, and generally have a design completely mapped out in detail before she starts to work. I don't work that way - In fact, I can't work that way... Part of why I have always had a tumultuous relationship with special orders is that I'm positively lousy at trying to hammer the wood into preset forms. Instead, I look for strings... An idea here, a hint of a shape there, an interesting arrangement of the grain over here. I hope they'll take me somewhere, and I start shaping. Sometimes along the way, the string just snaps and goes nowhere, and sometimes it goes to dull or uninteresting places, but sometimes it carries me somewhere positively magical. Those are the times that make it all worthwhile.

Even pieces that may, in the end, seem to be very complex and certainly elaborately designed, are created this way - As often as not, I have no idea just where I'm going and am only working on a quick sketch or doodle that just "feels" like what I want. It's true that I do a lot of drawings of pipes, but often people will find them strange, incomprehensible smudges or scribbles, and the best I can come up with is, "It's that curve, you see? I wanted to catch the *feel* of that curve."

Always an adventure, this craft...