Monday, October 19, 2009

rules and self-imposed limitations

Adam & I were talking last night about the limits people make for themselves and how it actually helps their creative process. I have been struggling lately with too many ideas and it strikes me that I need to have rules for my life in order to focus and be productive.

Back when I was making furniture, I gradually came up with rules for myself based on what I liked and thought beautiful and practical.

1. Only use found wood. I would find discarded wood on the side of the road or in construction dumpsters. I even found and used some wood that washed up on the beach. I never spent a penny for any wood. (I did buy screws and sandpaper, though.) The fact that the wood I used was already sort of banged up and imperfect was actually very freeing. I think I would have been more nervous using perfect lumber from the store.

2. The wood must be in good condition, and not varnished. After a while I realized I preferred working with bare, unfinished wood.

3. Finish with linseed oil or leave wood untreated. Linseed oil is a less toxic finish to work with than varnish or polyurethane. It leaves the furniture looking more natural and allows a nice weathering to happen when the wood gets dinged or scratched, rather that the upsetting way that perfectly varnished furniture looks when "damaged".

4. Stick to tables and benches. By making only one basic type of furniture, I learned from mistakes and got better at designing pieces. Some of my tables have awkward heights and ungainly dimensions but at least I can stare at them and try to figure out what it is that bothers me about them.

5. Use screws, not nails. This was hard to arrive at because aesthetically I prefer nails, but using screws makes the furniture easier to take apart if anyone wanted to re-use the wood for something else someday.

6. Design the furniture to be taken apart and reassembled. This way when you move you can make a table flat. It is also helpful when one's furniture is being stored in a garage.

I'm looking forward to winnowing down my interests gradually with rules that enable me to know what I REALLY want. I also think it would be interesting to find out rules that others have used in order to focus. Anyone?