Creativity and failure…

Workshop bench

I spent most of today sorting out my workshop. I began making things out of wood a few years ago as some kind of therapy to assist with the stresses and strains of my day job. There is something about using your hands to create something that is really special- you begin with chaos, work through an idea, and then for good or ill, it is finished.

Well, not always to be honest as I was discovering today. It was like idea archaeology- each layer held evidence of a project, most of them unfinished rejects, bits of carving that went wrong, sometimes hours in the making, now gathered for the fire.

Some of the work could be recycled- bits were still usable. However, the idea, the moment of creativity had gone. All that hope and optimism and quiet excitement had gone from the object- it was just wood again.

As I rebuilt shelves and sorted piles of carefully collected driftwood into some kind of order, it occurred to me that all creativity is like this. It is necessary to immerse ourselves in the dust and dirt of what we a trying to create- but there are no guarantees of the final outcome. Failure is part of the process.

My workshop is still not sorted out- it needs another day of cleaning and tidying, ready for a season of creativity again. I find that I have to have a blank space- so I can stop worrying about what I used to do and get on with something new.

The other reason for having a really good sort out is that this year we are taking part in an event called Cowal Open Studios

Here is the link to our page on the website.

If you are here or here abouts in September, you can take a look into my cave, or have a go at some pottery…

Here is the photography I did for the website;

cowal arts 2

Worshiping with wood 2…


As part of our worship installation for Greenbelt festival I have been working on a station called ‘history’ which uses tree rings to bring to us a sense of being part of a larger historical context. I mentioned this before- here, and the sense of worshiping God with my hands as I have worked the wood has been deep and powerful.

I obtained a slice of Scots Pine from Benmore Botanical Gardens– it had been cut with a chainsaw as part of the ongoing maintenance programme, and the slice I chose was a rough quarter of a larger tree section. It was heavy, rough and dirty, and was intended to be split for the fireplace.

I then spent many hours planing the surface as smooth as I could, then sanding it with different sandpapers in order to reveal the grain and rings of the wood. Later I oiled the surface with teak oil.

The more I worked, the more beautiful the wood became.

In counting the tree rings, the tree was planted around 1920. At that time, Benmore was owned by the famous music hall star Harry Lauder who planted and landscaped much of the land in the wake of personal tragedy- losing his only son in the first world war, then later his wife.

Walking below big old trees can be a wonderful peaceful experience- the shelter of their branches is almost parental. But they can also bring to us a sense of our own emphemeral mortality…



Del’s beautiful (but absolutely pointless) machine…

Time for something to lighten the mood I reckon- after all the discussion about pain and suffering and death and gas chambers.

Check out the clip.

This old guy must have spent countless hours making this lovely thing. It is a work of rough-handed, craftsman-genius.

It has no discernible purpose. It has no obvious meaning.

He is either slightly bonkers, or a backwoods savant who deserves international recognition. Or both.

But I love the fact that we humans can create such things. Perhaps there is no higher modern art form than this one…