Why I Make

by Michael on May 29, 2012

It seems to me that a good way to begin my blog is with an explanation of why I do what I do.  Recently, the folks at American Craft Magazine gave me an opportunity to do just that … read on…

I make simply because I have to. It is like having to breathe to live. It is that instinctual and primal drive.

I have always made things. When I was a little boy, my mother used to make me a concoction of flour, salt, water, and some mystery ingredients… basically a dough that could be sculpted into terrain. I’d gather twigs to serve as trees, grab some of my toy knights, and make a scene. When I was in the opera business (making scenes for a living), I would invariably find myself tipping a stage hand to let me use the backstage machinery to make a box or set of shelves for somebody. When I made my “debut” in the fine craft world at the Philly Show last year, while I certainly appreciated the positive feedback, I found myself getting very antsy to be back in my studio covered in sawdust and paint. It’s like blood pumping through my body… it happens whether I want it to or not. I have to be making something.

People tell me I’m a perfectionist, and I say, “Yes, I am. Thank you for the compliment.” People also graciously tell me that the pieces I make are beautiful. A Japanese woman told me that holding a bowl I’d made for her made her feel “comfortable.” I think having beautiful, well-made objects in one’s home makes it a happier place to live. Beauty still matters, and I feel that sending beautiful objects out into the world is the first line of defense against the ugliness, mediocrity, and transience that are increasingly so pervasive in our world.

I was singing a pops concert once when I noticed a man sitting in one of the front rows holding his hat in his lap. He was tapping on the sides of the hat in time with the music. I realized, in a flash, that that man would go home from the theater happier than when he’d arrived, and that what I was doing would make a difference in his life, even if only for that evening. I feel I am doing the same thing now, but, hopefully, the tangible nature of the objects I create will make the happiness last a bit longer than one evening.

Why do I make? Because I have to, and I love to. Let’s put it this way: Were I to win the lottery tomorrow, after cashing the check and taking my wife to Paris, I’d get up the morning after we returned and do exactly what I do every other morning… pour a cup of coffee and turn on the lathe.

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