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Draw what you see, not what you know.

Updated: Feb 12, 2023

Some teachers have a way of repeating themselves enough that you never forget the point. Marlene Miller was always working hard to get us to draw what we were actually seeing. She was an amazing teacher.

The art of seeing is such a valuable tool for anyone to carry through life, isn't it? The fine art of observation should not be overlooked.

We learn to look and overlook anything we simply do or do not want to see. This is the struggle I was deeply entrenched in while creating Little Flame. I worked so hard to get the weight of the lines just right as I built this sweet little box. The issue for me was that I couldn't tell what it would look like with finish applied. The weight of a light brown line appears quite different than a very deep almost black line. I kept wetting the pieces, but you have to be careful with that because wood will swell! It felt like torture sometimes. I was afraid I couldn't trust myself. In the end, I think it came out beautifully. I had no idea if it would be accepted but I entered this box in the Northwest Fine Woodworking Box Show. It won second place! I was stunned.

At this point, I had no background in making a box, had never made or thought of a finial before and any box I had made previously did not have legs. I was thrilled.

It took patience and accountability to create this box. I had to keep looking at what I was actually building and stop paying attention to what I simply wanted to see. I would take the line and make it a little less heavy, and look. How does that feel to look at?

For a bit of back story about the trials and tribulations of this work . . .

All of it was made from garbage I picked out of the bin. I made test cuts on another scrap and that turned into another gorgeous box which has led to many more boxes. As I was shaping the lid for this box the tool grabbed it out of my hand and flung it across the room.

Oops! My hands were intact, good.

I would have to make a change in my design as a big chunk was taken out of the corner of the lid.

Which brings me to another point about seeing. In order to see what is before us we let go of our expectations and preconceived ideas. All of us have them. Our brains are so magnificent. In so doing we remain flexible to the input. Remaining flexible is vital, and isn't it such a fine line between holding on for what we want and remaining flexible? This is one of the particular aspects of working with my hands that keeps me coming back for more.


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