You wouldn’t say, necessarily, that because I have a baseball bat hanging on the wall I must therefor be a professional athlete. Would you say that because I have a workshop full of hand tools and wood that I am a woodworker?
Our lives are made up of artifacts and it is not the ownership of these artifacts that defines us but their use. We are surrounded by the ways that we, as humans, have fashioned nature into culture, and some of us are also surrounded by the implements by which that transformation is brought to pass. Some of that is worth preserving. Some of it is not. Most of it is in how you tell the story.
While there are other creatures who have evolved to use tools in surprisingly complex ways, somewhere along the great arc of time humans developed the capacity for abstract thought. We learned to ask the question “why?” It seems to me a fair question and a good place to start.
But the Daily Skep isn’t meant to be esoteric. It is meant to be honest.
The Daily Skep is meant as a creative space for contemplating the intersections between creativity, creation, creature and creator. It is intended as a vehicle of observation and comment, of exploration and reflection, of trying and failing and trying again. A place where I can contemplate what it means to be human and why I want to make things with my hands. It is meant to help tell the parts of the story that are important to me, and with any luck, to find the points of overlap with the greater tradition and with others interested in the craft of working wood.
Speaking of stories, there are a lot of ways I could tell you my own story. I would probably start with “husband” and “father” because those are two labels dearest to my heart, but I could easily add all sorts of dimensions by saying “aspiring craftsman,” “tinkerer,” “philosopher,” “follower of Jesus,” etc. and in just a few short words the narrative begins to form. My name is Jim McConnell. I’ve been on this planet for thirty-six years. I love my wife and I am hopelessly devoted to my three little girls. I have a passion (as an amateur) for hand tool woodworking but I currently spend most of my time as the pastor of a church trying to love God, serve others and build up the community where I live.
All that is to say, that what woodworking goes on here at the Daily Skep is largely an attempt to learn by doing that which I do not yet know how to do, and inquiry is sure to follow.
There are plenty of good blogs about woodworking, and some particularly great ones about preserving the art and craft of using hand tools to do so. This will not be a DIY blog, although I will try to walk through projects step by step when I can. This will not be an instructional blog although I will try to share what knowledge I have and the mistakes that have earned such knowledge.
My intention is not to create one more woodworking blog to simply sit alongside the others. Instead, what I hope to do here by telling the story about my own journey into woodworking, one project at a time, is to locate myself within a bigger story. To find the intersections with other stories and other craftspeople who are asking the same questions, who are wondering the same things, who are making the same mistakes and who are learning what it means to turn nature into culture.
Thus the image of the skep. An image that pays homage to industry and the industrious. A symbol of the artisan and craftsperson. A reminder of our inter-connectedness. And, perhaps not least of all, a giant basket capable of holding all manner of things. The artifacts we hold in common tell a story far bigger than any one of us.
I’m not trying to make a name for myself. I just want to join the conversation.