I don't know about Shakers but that concept is certainly true about
Muslims. The prayer mats they weave always have an intentional mistake
in the weave because nothing on earth should be perfect but God.
THAT'S IT! I'll sell my stuff as Muslim holy trinket boxes complete
with God-pleasing imperfections.
To me it is about humility. Trying to be perfect assumes that it is
possible to be perfect, which of course is not possible. Recognizing
that the things we make are imperfect reminds us that we aren't
As others have mentioned, you could build boxes with a CNC machine
could probably be "perfect," but to me one of the reasons to make
pieces by hand is so that you can see the hand of the maker in the
item. Since the maker isn't perfect, the box isn't perfect, either.
I think what the Shakers were getting at is that if we assume that we
can make something that is perfect, then we are starting to put
ourselves in a position reserved for God. I am not familiar with it,
but the Muslim belief sounds similar.
(Of course I get just as upset about glue marks as you do.)
A careful examination of Shaker furniture will not show too many pieces that
are "perfect." They were trying to make a living and as efficiently as
possible. The degree of skill likely varied as much within the Shaker
community as it did elsewhere. Over-cut pins on blind dovetails, dovetail
pins on compound angles cut perpendicular to the angle rather than in line
with the grain, dovetails that end on half tails instead of half pins,
"designs" that almost defy logic... all can be found. I've got photos of
some of these things and books like John Kassay's "The Book of Shaker
Furniture" have photos and measured drawings showing other of the defects in
It is not my intent to "slam" the Shakers by any means. I'm actually a huge
fan of their work and admire them for the dedication to their faith. I also
let my mind wander while walking around places like Hancock Shaker Village
and the Shaker Museum and Library and can almost hear them at work....
As one of the guys said during the handcut dovetail class I taught last
weekend "Who has to deliberately make mistakes in their work?"
FWIW, I seem to recall a disclaimer from a well known producer of hand made
leather goods (can't remember who now, it was a long, long time ago) to the
effect that the products will contain small imperfections and that these
show that they were hand made to order rather than churned out by a
Sun, Jun 18, 2006, 2:57am (EDT-3) firstname.lastname@example.org (foggytown) doth
<snip> Question for the wreckers here who do pieces for customers. Are
you ever truly satisfied with your work to the point where you think it
will probably be rejected? Or am I overestimating the capacity of the
public to be critical of something they can't do to begin with?
Well, judging from the picture of that box, I can tell why your
stuf isn't selling. Some kind of blue mold or something in it. LOL
Judging from the quality of some of the stuff I've seen for sale,
and the hefty prices tacked on them, and actually sometimes selling, I'd
say just go ahead and sell your stuff - at a reasonable price - and just
keep on trying to improve it. I get people telling me how good some of
my stuff is, and it should really sell well - but they don't buy. The
quality of my work is certainly at least as good as most of the stuff
for sale out there, and a lot better than maybe 40-50% of what's out
there. So, I keep trying to improve what I make, changing the design,
etc. I feel good about my work, and don't let it bother me.
My problem is, I do NOT care for salespeople, at all, and have a
very hard time with the fact that I will have to "become" a salesperson
to sell my stuff. It's a moral issue, and I'll probably get over it. I
think what I need is someone who sells at a flea market to sell on
commission for me.
Politician \Pol`i*ti"cian\, n. Latin for career criminal
I'd prescribe a healthy dose of realism... Go window shopping
I think that most of the general public has no idea what constitutes
quality work. I've been in some of the "up scale" furniture stores
around here. The ones where a dining room set costs more than all my
shop. I've seen countless pieces with finishes *I* would not tolerate
on my work. Doors and drawers that don't quite line up. The list goes
on. The general public buys a lot of mass produced junk that's labeled
Looking at jewelry boxes in the store, I've only once seen one or two
that I thought were really well done. Gorgeous burls, immaculate
finish, everything fitted together perfectly. The prices ranged
US$750.00-1250.00. I don't think they sold very many of those. The
$39.95, badly veneered, pine boxes, however, moved like hotcakes.
Take one of your pieces, place it next to a store bought piece. Look
how much better your joints fit, how even your finish, how much nicer
it looks. *That* is the typical customer's response.
That said, I do it too. Every little blemish stands out to me. When it
starts bugging me I go over to my little poplar and walnut book rack.
It was the first thing I built. I compare the "then" with the "now" and
take comfort in that while the "now" isn't perfect, it is getting
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