I hope you’ll excuse the dearth of digital musings over the past two weeks. The family and I have been on holiday and I’m just catching my breath.
I have all sorts of thoughts on guitar factories, lane changing creativity exercises and antique stores that I want to write about, but for now I’ll just offer you this.
This came in a kids meal from Wendy’s. It’s plastic. It’s fast. It’s supposed to look like wood. Whoever designed the wood grain did a fairly convincing job, but they had obviously never encountered real wood, because real wood has end grain and this car does not.
Also in the, “plastic things made to look like wood category” – the interior of the elevator in the hotel we stayed in in Pennsylvania last week. I never got around to taking pictures of the faux wood in said elevator because I didn’t want to look like a creeper, but I assure you the “walnut” walls and “spalted maple” floor were facsimiles of the real thing. It reminded me of the labor and delivery room at the local hospital where my youngest was born a year ago. More than half of the surfaces in that room were made to look like wood, but were in fact some other sterile material.
Even at the Martin Guitar factory in Nazareth, I was met by faux wood. After touring the plant last week, and smelling all of the amazing aromas of Sitka spruce and mahogany wafting through the air, one of the very last stops was a wall of off-beat and experimental models including the backpacker guitar (the first guitar in space) and all of the “X” models that feature high pressure laminate backs and sides. Our tour guide Ben (himself a 30 year veteran neck fitter) pointed to one and said “that’s not wood. That’s a picture of wood printed on plastic.”
He didn’t say it in a judgmental tone. HPL has it’s obvious advantages. It allows them to make camouflage guitars and send them to military troops in some inhospitable climates. It makes for a durable and inexpensive first guitar for children. It is resilient and strong and it sounds pretty good. It’s not bad, but it’s not wood and for a man who had hand fit countless mahogany necks, I wonder how Ben reacted the day that Chris Martin first said, “hey, we’re going to try something different!”
Sometimes I am amazed that we are connected with wood on such a primal level that we go to all the trouble to make things that are not wood look like wood. When we work with manufactured materials that could be any color and texture, we still imprint it with the colors and textures of wood for comfort and continuity with something in our past and in our soul.
Last night, I decided to eat dinner with a carved wooden spoon. A few weeks ago it was a log, and through my axe and carving knives a utensil emerged. Now that it was in my bowl for the first time I found that using it was a wholly different experience than eating with a metal spoon. There was a tactile element to be sure, but I swear the food tasted different as well.
I wonder what we’re missing.