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floman47's picture

The other night I went to an art show in Laguna Beach CA.  My wife made me wear long pants and uncomfortable shoes - it was pretty fancy! There were paintings, jewelry… some things I don’t know exactly what they were.  And to my amazement there was some furniture made out of wood!  One guy had a rocking chair in the Maloof style. Another guy’s pieces were in the Craftsman style and this other gentleman’s was more the newer what I call the Fine Woodworking style. All the pieces were magnificent, as nice as Rick’s “cherry display cabinets”. As I was talking to the man that made the FWW style armoire about his “linear” curves (looked like stick drawn curves to me) a lady walked up and asked, “is the artist here” and the guy said “yes, its me, I’m the artist”. Well later on that got me to thinking (uh-oh!) when I’ve made furniture, or a really nice staircase, or made a real intricate inlay, I don’t remember anybody calling me an “artist”.  Nor have I thought of myself as an “artist”.  Now how come he is called an “artist”?  Is it because his stuff is at an art show? He calls his curves “linear”?  Or because he’s asking $18,500 for it?

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 Now should all woodworkers be called “artist”?


I once read where Sam Maloof said some people have called him an “artist”.  He said, “No, I’m just a woodworker” I think I’ll stick with that cause I’ll be in pretty good company.


Well I should get back to work now and stop thinken so much - I might hurt somethin.   I’m making some curved steps for some flooring contractor, compass curve with a router I might add. See ya. 


Jeff in so cal


PS: If you want to know what a stick drawn curve is?  Well, you find a stick - not to big and not to small.  Then you grab onto both ends and bend it to what ever curve you want - then get a friend to draw the line for you.                 


Edited 7/16/2002 10:05:38 PM ET by FLOMAN47

ChasStanford's picture

(post #119790, reply #150 of 461)

You are quite the renaissance woman.... housewright, art fair guru, first showing at an art gallery.

I'm breathless.

DavidxDoud's picture

(post #119790, reply #151 of 461)

re:  splintergroupie - you forgot 'soon to be published' -

"there's enough for everyone"
ChasStanford's picture

(post #119790, reply #152 of 461)

Oh really?  Do tell...

DavidxDoud's picture

(post #119790, reply #155 of 461)

let's see if this will work -

7275.44 in reply to 7275.42 

"there's enough for everyone"
ChasStanford's picture

(post #119790, reply #157 of 461)

Oh Jesus, please.  How would such a busy artist have time to write an article for FW?

Edited 8/21/2002 7:14:00 AM ET by CHASSTANFORD

observer's picture

(post #119790, reply #137 of 461)

creating in three dimensions is more demanding than creating in two.

I think you are mixing up the score with the symphony, the book with the novel, the canvas with the image. Mozart was not piggybacking because his music was played on a piano, it was only a tool he used.

Edited 8/19/2002 11:47:23 AM ET by Dick

Splintie's picture

(post #119790, reply #139 of 461)

Mozart was not piggybacking because his music was played on a piano

Not only bec his he used the piano, but also the whole modal system, and time signatures on "Mozart's influences" and then tell me he sprang ready made out of a vacuum. What if he hadn't come with the requisite stage parent? Do you think Mozart would have shared one-name celebrity with Madonna and Sting if Dad had run a Schlächterei

All atists stand on someone shoulders (or toes). Some do it better that others, is all. What the heck's that got to do with dimensions, though?

Edited 8/19/2002 10:14:50 PM ET by SPLINTIE

observer's picture

(post #119790, reply #145 of 461)

Just a point you made earlier that I was looking for a little clarification of.

As a self-admitted artist, who's toes or shoulders are you standing on?

Splintie's picture

(post #119790, reply #147 of 461)

2-D v. 3-D:

Hmmm...well, it's like saying that a person could do the most fabulous drawing of the Coliseum, but it doesn't compare with the mental and physical effort involved in making the Coliseum itself. Not to say all 3-D is better than all 2-D, only that an extra dimension is like having yet another tool to use---much still depends on how it is wielded, but it increases one's possible effect on the materials. Think of Habitat for Humanity's Blitz-Builds: a rather mundane subject gathers some momentum with the addition of the dimension of time.

I appreciate Saarinen's furniture with an emotion bordering on lust. Nice chairs, i say. But his Gateway Arch...sorry, Mona Lisa isn't in the running.

Not saying size guarantees art, either--a piece of intricately folded paper can be art--but i wouldn't stack an origami crane against the Chunnel for pure insight married to technique.

As an artist (or a woman, or a gardener, or a...) i stand on the shoulders/toes of everyone who helped me get there, in books, in person, or through osmosis. It's just not that bigga deal.

Edited 8/20/2002 12:35:45 PM ET by SPLINTIE

observer's picture

(post #119790, reply #153 of 461)

The dimensional thing kind of confuses the issue and does tend to lead to that more/bigger is better outlook. For instance, how many dimensions does John Mclaughlin's Inner mounting Flame or Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major occupy? The two taken up by the sheet it was notated on, the three occupied by the media it is recorded on, the single dimension of time it occupies while being heard, or a fifth dimension inside the head of the listener? Is creating in three dimensions, as a sculptor does, more difficult than creating the third dimension out of the first two, as a painter does? What about the writer who must make do without depth but is compensated by having time?

Having said that, elegance arises from simplicity. A poor artist is reliant on those extra tools to accomplish what a better artist can do without their assistance. Their use does not imply better or more difficult art. Time is of great value to Habitat for Humanity and in gardening, but it does not make art of what is produced nor will it do so for your lovely big box although all those thing are good.

As for your link, it is reminiscent of the other discussed here in the "get this" (I think) thread. Perhaps it is art and will be preserved for centuries because of it's importance. I read it was art on the internet. It must be true. Then again.... perhaps not.


Edited 8/20/2002 8:36:12 PM ET by Dick

Splintie's picture

(post #119790, reply #156 of 461)

My statements just fall to pieces unless we're in the visual arts field, don't they?

Still, in music, an analogy stands in that it's easier to sing solo than to sing five-part Balkan harmonies (trust me on this), which is easier than conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.

In regard to literary arts, a limerick is a snap, a sonnet will strain your brain, a few Mamets and Stoppards exist, but not many Iliads coming down the pike.

elegance arises from simplicity

Not necessarily. Sometimes you get Norm or Thomas Kincaid. You compare a poor artist with lots o' tools and a good artist with few tools, but neglect the case of the fine artist with great resources. Saarinen without financial backing (a tool) would be merely a good draftsman with some nice sketches. Do you think Stephen Hawking minds having ALS? (Health is also a tool.) If Einstein had been photogenic (looks, another tool), do you think anyone would have to google on the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle or would it be a mini-series? 

The origami link was sent to me this morning by one of my art-fair buddies. Donald Trump wrote The Art of the Deal--maybe haiku-guy and Karyn could co-author The Art of the Scam? <G>


ChasStanford's picture

(post #119790, reply #158 of 461)

Were Saarinen's designs not art when they existed on paper? 

Edited 8/21/2002 7:06:12 AM ET by CHASSTANFORD

observer's picture

(post #119790, reply #159 of 461)

I think you live in a more artful world than I do, although I bet mine is every bit as beautiful.

A good artist who can master a broad variety of tools is a rare bird indeed, and does stand above those with more restricted palettes. Use, however, is not equivalent to mastery and without mastery, you can't make art.

Personally, I have always thought of Einstein as extremely photogenic. Calvin Klein would never hire him as an underwear model, but I would certainly rather wake up to his image then one of Calvin's boys(?). People wouldn't need to google the Heisenberg Principle if Einstein had the foresight to include a few good sex scenes.

Splintie's picture

(post #119790, reply #160 of 461)

I think we both revere perfection, but i call it all art and then look at the continuum of low end to high end, while you reserve the appellation for the last few percentage points at the top end of the top end. In my construct, i can have really bad folk music and really good folk music, with really bad symphonic music ranked below really good folk, but a perfect folk song still could never outrank a perfect symphony. I'm surmising "folk art" doesn't register on your art-o-meter, no matter how well done?

I've been chasing the generalist/specialist idea since yesterday, comparing the single-minded van Gogh's to the multi-talented da Vinci's. I am more moved by van Gogh, but more respectful of da Vinci...and i don't know why. I saw an Emmet Day desk with a inlay banding miter a teensy bit off, but i didn't care bec he panned his own gold for a beautiful flute he'd also made.

Can a work even be properly judged outside the context of the author's experience/oeuvre? After observing Tom Hanks' actions, one might think he knows something of war, but context tells us he doesn't. We then judge him a talented actor, but a poor hero. Without the context, we wouldn't know how to evaluate the performance.  

observer's picture

(post #119790, reply #161 of 461)

You're right. I mean no criticism of a thing by not accepting it as art and take pleasure in much that I don't regard as such. I believe that the best is art, the rest is what it is. For instance, there is music, and there is art in music form. To be a musician is a fine calling, but it is no assurance of producing art or of being an artist. Tom Hanks is forever safe from my consideration. Although he is a talented actor, I do not consider acting to be an art form even if a movie could be considered art.

Perhaps the element of context is where we diverge. That inate objective quality I mentioned once or twice seems to remove context from the equation, at least for me. It is impossible to describe, but is that aura that a man/woman-made object of any sort can display and that causes you to look again at it with just a little bit of wonder, even if you don't know what the thing is.

I am more moved by van Gogh, but more respectful of da Vinci...and i don't know why.

Generalists of the calibre of Da Vinci are the superhumans that appear so rarely on humanity's horizon, confluences of the genetic flux. Van Gough inspires feeling, Da Vinci inspires awe at the capabilities of man (or woman, I know you're a little sensitive). <<trumpets>> I think the aspirastion toward higher quality brings us closer to Da Vinci's level; making the designation "art" something to strive for encourages better art and better artists<<trumpets fade out>>

Thanks for the verbal tennis. Its a pleasure.

Edited 8/21/2002 4:47:41 PM ET by Dick

Splintie's picture

(post #119790, reply #163 of 461)

I do not consider acting to be an art form even if a movie could be considered art.

I can't fathom the idea that a great reader or a great player isn't a great artist. A Daniel Day-Lewis or Maria Callas isn't judged on their abilities to remember lines or notes in proper procession, but precisely for that "indefinable something" that produces emotion/awe in us that lesser creatures fail to elicit. One could as easily say Shakespeare or Copeland is impotent without a cast/orchestra as the work is meant to be performed; if it isn't, it has failed its objective.

What about great orators? Are they artists only if they write the words they speak? If you didn't know for certain whether they wrote the words, would you have to withhold judgment on whether a great oration was a work of art or merely a recitation? 

observer's picture

(post #119790, reply #167 of 461)

If you consider Tom an artist, what of the key grip or the best boy or for that matter, Bruce who works washing dishes in the catering trailer and is desperately waiting for his dancing talents to be discovered? Is their contribution to the picture not to be recognized also? The director of a film seems to me the likliest candidate to wear the feather. He/she is the one who's vision is being recorded and everyone from Tom to Bruce takes their instruction directly or indirectly from the director. Maria Callas and Luciano Pavrotti(when in his prime) were recognized for the quality of their instruments rather than their artistic creativity. Artists?...Hmmmm....

I don't consider the ability to represent yourself as something other than what you are as an artistic accomplishment. If I did, I would have to extend that same recognition to the legions of advertising types who, for instance, suggest "Buy that SUV and PRESTO, you're an outdoorsman" or that Captain Crunch is a nutritious breakfast. It would also bring politicians into the realm of the chosen. George Dubya an artist? Even OJ could sneak in under the wire, and that brings Johnny Cochrane and F. Lee Bailey into the fold in supporting roles.

would you have to withhold judgment on whether a great oration was a work of art or merely a recitation? 

If the oration was that good (and for me, displayed that essential objective signature) I would say that the words were art, and that the creator of those words is the artist. If the creator was the orator, then the orator is the artist and if not, the writer is the artist. If I am unaware of the origin of the words at the time I hear them, I do not choose to acredit the orator by default. I will wait until I am certain of from whom they arose. In my view, creation is an essential characteristic in the production of art, and therefore an essential characteristics of artists. Regurgitating the art of another, no matter how well executed, does not move one into the class 'artist'.

You haven't answered a question I posed to you earlier. Why do you define art so broadly and inclusively. I'm not suggesting that you are incorrect (well, maybe I am but I've been wrong before), and I would like to understand your rationale.

ChasStanford's picture

(post #119790, reply #168 of 461)

At minimum, the term "artist" is an exclusive term don't you think?  A broad, inclusive definition is invalid on its face, so why bother?

observer's picture

(post #119790, reply #169 of 461)

For the pleasure to be found in the use of language to explore ideas?

ChasStanford's picture

(post #119790, reply #170 of 461)

It's almost like asking somebody to tell you why they think the sky is not blue. 

observer's picture

(post #119790, reply #171 of 461)

Its a personal quirk that I always find answers to that kind of question entertaining, and sometimes quite interesting. In rare instances they are even enlightening.

ChasStanford's picture

(post #119790, reply #172 of 461)

I'm quite sure that you're right.

observer's picture

(post #119790, reply #185 of 461)

A dry wit Chas.

ChasStanford's picture

(post #119790, reply #186 of 461)

Warped is more like it.

Splintie's picture

(post #119790, reply #176 of 461)

In truth, the key grip and the best boy are recognized, in what are--quite appropriately--called "the credits". Just bec you never sit through them... <G>

Think of it this way: Special Olympics. Some DD gal wins a first-place ribbon for doing the 100-yard dash in a couple minutes or so. Does this mean i can't fully appreciate a Joyner-Kersey? Not at all! JJK is a better runner than the Special Olympian, despite the fact they are both first-place finishers.

This is also how i tell the difference between advertising hype and dramatic ability, e.g. the context. Why i swing with van Gogh but stand in awe of da Vinci, for that matter. I can applaud the orator for his speaking, yet moreover for his text. As to politicians, Hitler was an artist (dramatic ability) while Dubya couldn't finger paint his way out of a paper bag (advertising hype).

Why do you define art so broadly and inclusively

Pardon, i didn't mean to evade, but we both use rhetorical questions, don't we?

I see attempts to create all around me. Creation/generation is the one unalterable element of art. Fine art (an iMac) generates more light than rough art (your average beige PC). Great, complicated art (Bolshoi ballet, your Butchart gardens) generates more wattage than great, simple art (tea ceremony, bonsai tree). Though art must contain creation, i'm still thinking on whether all creation is art under this def'n--intuitively i think not, but i have to bring in the intention of the artist to get out of it...thoughts?

I use the word "art" like i use the word "food", yet i can still tell Subway fare from Sooke Harbour House's without the "test of time" or the price list. Perhaps the analogy would be you only use the term as you would use "cuisine"? If so, what would you call the stuff you "eat" the rest of the time?

Colleen, Special Olympian woodworker semi-finalist

observer's picture

(post #119790, reply #187 of 461)

I rarely sit through a movie, let alone the credits. My point was that the actor is just a tool of the director, as are all the others involved. If the performance could be art, why not the lighting or the makeup or lunch instead of putting all that weight on poor Tom's shoulders. All contribute to the film, but in my view the sum of the parts is the object that may or may not be art.

you only use the term as you would use "cuisine"? If so, what would you call the stuff you "eat" the rest of the time?

The obvious answer would be simply food or music or paintings or carvings or poetry or...... That sets up a very simple divide. I have a concept for the finer version, the 'art', and I have a concept for the work-a-day stuff.

I use the word "art" like i use the word "food", yet i can still tell Subway fare from Sooke Harbour House's

..... but I can't when you tell me you had 'food'. With such a broad definition, context by neccesity becomes involved and the issue becomes even more mired in subjective perceptions. If you said "I had 'haute cuisine'" it is apparent without context as it is if you said "I had a sandwich". Should you ever get 80 miles north of the Harbour House, this place gives them a run for their money at the table and has a better cellar. 

Though art must contain creation, i'm still thinking on whether all creation is art under this def'n--intuitively i think not, but i have to bring in the intention of the artist to get out of it...

.... From my understanding of your paradigm, all creation must be art, even if it is slower than the Special Olympian. As I understand what you have said, there is no reference standard to attain, but rather a continuum. It seems to me that the continuum must include all. Once you start to limit by setting a minimum standard of some form, you are acknowledging that there is art and non-art, that there is some objective difference and it becomes only a question of how low or high you set your personal standards. The problem of the intention of the artist is that one day, she could make a lazy susan with the intent of it being art. The next day, she could make that same lazy susan but not feel it was art because it was made once before. Is none, one or both art ? Could the artist herself tell the difference between the two? How could anyone else?

Edited 8/23/2002 9:27:09 PM ET by Dick

DonaldCBrown's picture

(post #119790, reply #188 of 461)

I've enjoyed about as much of this as I can stand, but don't let that deter the rest of you.

In a woodworking context, I think Splintie and Sandra were on the right track long, long ago when they both referenced Pirsig and the concept of quality. No, ChasStanford, I don't think Lazy Susans are art, any more than a Federal reproduction (or original, for that matter) is art, but I think there are high-quality Lazy Susans and there are high-quality Federal pieces.

In theory, I suppose woodworking could rise to the status or art, but I believe anyone chasing that specter is doomed to disappointment. Woodworking, from its origins to the present day, is about utility: making things people can use to sit on, eat from, place their mittens on, hang their coats from, store things in, and otherwise simplify their lives.  The woodworker is severly constrained in expression by the requirements of utility. If I can't hang my hat from it, what good is it? Because wood has inherent beauty, woodworking products can also be beautiful. But I would call the human contribution to the beauty quality, not art.

And what's wrong with quality as a standard to which we can aspire?

Edited 8/23/2002 9:29:27 PM ET by Donald C. Brown

Lilshaver's picture

(post #119790, reply #189 of 461)

Truly the term "quality" is just as loaded and vague as "art." And this, despite Persig. Consider the sculpture of Martin Puryear -- he is trained as a woodworker/craftsman and this is evident in his artwork. Nevertheless, perfect joinery, etc. is not his purpose and so I doubt that most readers of Fine Woodworking would judge his work as being high quality. But boy howdy, it surely does sing to me!

ChasStanford's picture

(post #119790, reply #193 of 461)

I absolutely agree about the general concept of quality.   There are cheap bottle openers and then there are the heavy, nickel plated ones that practically make a top want to jump off the bottle...  I started using a different dry cleaner because I liked the better hangers the new one used.  Anything can be done poorly.

Diamond makes the best kitchen match that I've been able to find. 

I agree with you about the utility constraint too, however if taken to a ridiculous extreme then the plain little box has a better chance to be art than a magnificent secretary (I know Splintie, it's just a bigger box) - purely because the little box has fewer constraints - it has no definable function, or utility.  This is where we differ slightly.

I believe it is very, very hard to create art in woodworking.  I think some chairmakers have been able to and, in general, chairmakers have a better chance of creating art than non-chairmakers. 

Lilshaver's picture

(post #119790, reply #194 of 461)

Are you saying that it is difficult to make art in "woodworking" or in "woodworking for furniture making?" Maybe someone (go ahead, be brave) better define the term woodworking that keeps getting used in this discussion. I think that you are saying that it is difficult to make furniture be art. Correct? If so, I totally agree. Because the term furniture defines a function/use/form. It is (within broad bounds) limited.