“I’d Rather Be a Hammer Than a Nail….”

I spent most of my weekend doing two things: building an addition to my barn and stewing over an email a friend sent me last Friday.

The barn addition was easy. When I moved here ten years ago I found a good-sized, three-sided, metal roof building on the property. Local farmers would call it a pole barn, but it was really more like a pole shed. It was packed with rotting boards, sagging shelves, flat tires, old buckets of mysterious goo and a welded go-cart frame. I cleaned it out, constructed four stalls and made two large sliding barn doors. Since then I’ve built four additions to it, none of them very large. This last one is just forty feet long and twelve feet wide.

I had intended to hire a couple of young guys to help with it, but when the time came, I really didn’t want to. It wasn’t that I couldn’t find good help. I just like working on stuff like this myself. Its good therapy for me. Hiring two guys would mean that I would have to be The Boss: watching them closely, making quick decisions, worrying one of them would fall off a ladder or get sliced handling one of the twelve-foot sheets of metal roofing, keeping track of time, always having something for them to do next – its enough to take the fun out of any project.

And this was just good, old-fashioned rough carpentry. No thru-tenons, no quartersawn oak, no pegged joints. Just pine 2×4’s, 16-penny nails, a saw and a hammer.

And that email.

It came from a friend, an Arts & Crafts friend, who asked to be taken off the emailing list for this website. He’s a longtime collector, someone I would consider a furniture expert, someone I thought would enjoy what we’re doing here, so I was surprised that he would go to the trouble of requesting that we not to send it to him anymore. And so I asked him, ‘why?’

“Too folksy.”


Its funny how our words and our actions aren’t always perceived the way we envision them. What I thought would come off as ‘personal’ and occasionally ‘insightful,’ he considered “too folksy.”

Have I become what I had grown up listening to?

Peter, Paul and Mary gone Arts & Crafts? Joni Mitchell in a Morris chair? Bob Dylan sniffing woodworker’s glue?

Now, I will be the first to state that there is no tortured genius lurking in my soul, no Faulknarian novel struggling to emerge, not even a clever Mark Twainish short story hidden in the bottom drawer of my desk.

What you see is what you get, and if sometimes that comes off as “too folksy,” then I must plead guilty.

And I’ll take solace in the words of the King of Folksy for the Arts & Crafts movement, the self-deprecating humorist Elbert Hubbard, who advised his readers, “Don’t over-explain. Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it.”

Until next Monday,

Have a great week!

Bruce Johnson

Keep the Movement Alive: send this website address to a new collector or bungalow owner!