We seem to live in a ‘throw-away’ society, where everything is mass-produced and built from modules; if it goes wrong, throw out the malfunctioning bit and plug in a new bit, or just buy an identical replacement. I can’t argue that this doesn’t have some advantages, but it also incredibly wasteful of valuable resources.
I was brought up by parents who were born in the 1920s, when products were built to last a lifetime, rather than designed to collapse in a few years so you’d go back and buy another one. Back then, things were fixed when they broke and, if you didn’t have a particular item to hand, your first though was “can I make one?” rather than “how long will it take Amazon to deliver one?”
My wood carving and turning is based on those same ‘fix it or re-use it’ principles with which I was surrounded as a child. I obtain my wood from a myriad of sources, but none of it is new, off-the-shelf material bound in shrink-wrap plastic and plastic ties. The wood with which I work is recycled, abandoned, re-purposed, rescued from skips and council refuse sites, or collected from trees brought down in storms or cleared for building work. Consequently, and I believe this passionately, it has more character. It is not all the same colour, with the same grain, from the same quality-controlled batch. Instead it is quirky, a bit temperamental at times, and it varies in every imaginable characteristic. In short, it has character.
People who mass produce items first decide on the design, then they buy in enough wooden blanks to produce a run of identical items. I can’t do that, the wood won’t let me, so everything I create is unique. The general style may be the same, but the colour, height, width, shape – they will all vary a little with every item.
Because the sourcing is ethical, and what I’ve got in stock determines what I create, the final items have an ethical history and an individualism that lifts them above mass-produced nick-nacs. I think that’s important because it puts soul into a creation. When you hold one of my wooden owls , or a candle stick, you know that a tree wasn’t felled just for your future enjoyment, and you know that what you are holding has been held by a craftsman, not by a stainless steel jig mounted on a computer-controlled lathe.
By making use of wood that was otherwise to be destroyed I not only save existing trees but preserve a little bit of history. An owl crafted from a discarded Victorian door frame may be made from wood that was growing before the French Revolution, and a candle stick turned from a fallen English Yew was quite possibly a sapling when the United States declared independence from Great Britain. I believe that sort of history deserves to be preserved, and it adds magic to an item when you know that you have helped to preserve something that’s been around for hundreds of years.