Arts and Crafts Therapy

If you saw my column last week, you know that I spent a good deal of my time in New Jersey and New York, where I encountered the Cadillac ad captioned with an Elbert Hubbard quotation. Naturally, upon returning home I had a couple of days of correspondence, paperwork, and deadlines to take care of, so it came as no surprise to Leigh Ann that my next little journey was a short one.

Right to my workshop.

Now, don’t think for a minute that my garage workshop looks anything like what you see on Norm Abram’s show “The New Yankee Workshop.” Our two-car garage still functions as a garage and is almost as much a garden center as it is a woodshop. A lifetime ago when I owned Knock On Wood, an antique restoration shop in Iowa City, I had a real workshop, complete with a wide variety of power tools, equipment, and a spray booth.

Now, however, I only do work for myself, our home, and my family, and I like doing as much as possible by hand, so my woodworking equipment is limited to a table saw, a planer, a jointer, and a drill press, nearly all of which are mounted on wheels, making them easy to move just before Leigh Ann drives in.

On this particular day I had a specific project in mind: a 24-inch tall, 12-inch diameter tabouret to stand at the end of one of our couches. I began by leafing through my reprint catalogues of both Gustav Stickley and L. & J. G. Stickley furniture, but when I could not find a piece that matched my dimensions, I did what I suspect many designers do: I took details from three or four different pieces and combined them into one.

Good ideas are meant to be borrowed; great ones to be stolen.

I pulled my wood from my coveted stash of oak boards — rescued years ago when the Grove Park Inn cut down some of the original circa 1913 tall headboards and footboards — and went to work, cutting, sanding, and gluing them together to make my simple tabouret. I certainly could not describe it as being work, for it was more like therapy, being alone in my workshop, music playing in the background, no stress, no lofty expectations, no deadline to meet, just me and a pile of old oak boards that gradually began to take on a new life.

When I was finished, my tabouret was by no means perfect. I am not a perfectionist. I have far too many projects going to ever have the luxury of being a perfectionist. I am a pragmatist, so it was more important that I complete my tabouret rather than agonize over every fraction of an inch. I know its every flaw, but I also know that no one else will — at least while I’m still around to defend myself.

And now, as I sit here looking at my tabouret, I feel a sense of pride, a satisfaction that seems to rarely come in our busy lives, as we so seldom get — or take — the opportunity to actually make something, even something as simple as a small tabouret.

It reminded me of yet another Elbert Hubbard quotation, one that explains in just three words why we are drawn to the Arts and Crafts style and philosophy.

Head, Heart, & Hand.

Until next Monday.

Three words to live by.


If you want to see what my tabouret looked like when it was finished, click over to our Facebook page where the pictures are larger!