Anne Briggs Bohnett: Perfect, in 1000 words or less

 

(Editor’s Note:) Today’s author has a lot more to do with the founding of The Daily Skep than she probably realizes. A couple of years ago, when Instagram was still a new toy to me, I stumbled across some of Anne’s work and it suddenly became clear to me that there was a whole community of people who loved woodworking as much as I did. It wasn’t just me, in the garage, struggling to figure something out anymore. There were others asking the same questions, learning the same things and helping one another along the way. It was also abundantly clear that the fact that these people lived all around the world was no longer the impediment it once was. 

I’m grateful for her contributions to the craft of woodworking, for her generous spirit and for the wisdom she shares below.

As iron sharpens iron,
    so one person sharpens another. (Prov 21:17)

-JM

Perfect – from an imperfect perspective

“Perfect” is an interesting word for me. My generation is one marked by a feverish pursuit of perfection. Painting a perfect picture of a perfect life from just the right angle in just the right light with just the right filter is what social media is all about, and most of my peers are spending more time painting that perfect picture on social media than actually working to create a life and legacy of which they can enjoy and be proud. “Perfect,” as the world defines it, simply does not exist.

IMG_6107
Not pictured: this 3000 lb bandsaw nearly falling and crushing my husband and my best friend while we moved it into the garage earlier that day.

People see a few snapshots of my alpacas, my garden, a few wood shavings and tell me that I have a “perfect” life. By my interpretation of “perfect,” I’d have to agree, but there is usually a grand canyon between their fairy tale interpretation of my life and reality. Though I’ve made a point of sharing about the good and the bad in our life, not everyone reads the text below, and a few well composed photographs imply I live on a storybook farm, tinkering around in my wood shop all day, making what I want, and picking miraculously ripe produce out of my garden.

IMG_6644
Not pictured: these hooligans constantly breaking my fences and making a break straight for my garden, or worse, the highway behind our house.
IMG_1050
Not pictured: the heartbreak of nearly losing mama goat to Toxemia and having to deliver her third kid who didn’t survive the pregnancy

I could fill lake Michigan with the tears I’ve cried over the heartbreak of leaving my home and my incredible community in Taiwan to move to Seattle, over the broken relationship with my first woodworking mentor, over countless animal tragedies, over difficult times in my marriage, over failed business ventures, over the goats getting in and ruining my garden YET AGAIN, and especially those tears you cry when there are still 10,000 items on your to-do list and you’ve already worked 90 hours that week and you just. can’t. do. any. more. Happiness is a choice, and it is a choice I make daily. I love what I do, so work often doesn’t feel like work. I feel incredibly privileged that I get to live in a place I’ve come to love and have a life I’ve dreamed about since I was 5 years old. I’m incredibly happy, but that happiness, or the life I live does not come easily. I always try to do my best, and I’ve learned to be proud of the end result, regardless of what it is- because my best is the only “perfect” I’ll ever achieve.

IMG_4791
Not pictured: the 20 hours I spent milking my goat before work at 5:30 am to get enough milk to make this cheese
IMG_1579
Not pictured: yes, those are beautiful beets, but that was our entire beet harvest of 2015 because I had no idea what I was doing in the garden. This was also a day Abbey was being particularly naughty. 

Most woodworkers know me because of my Instagram account @anneofalltrades. I started that account around the same time I took up woodworking and I have used it as a platform to share the ups and downs of my journey into the life of craft. With a large “follower” count and as a regular contributor to a woodworking magazine, I am often tempted to put only my best, most impressive foot out there for the world to see. To take pictures of my work from flattering angles and cover up my [many] mistakes. However, the few times I’ve done so, I’ve done myself, and those who look up to me, a major disservice. A big part of the early success I’ve seen in the woodworking industry is the very fact that I’m a young, inexperienced woodworker with a passion to learn and a somewhat unique perspective. I work hard and always try my best, but there will always always be someone who can do better work than me. And I have come to be 100% OK with that. I’ve also come to find that the old adage is true: the best woodworker is he who can best hide his mistakes. So that “perfect” highboy you love so much? Probably isn’t so “perfect” after all.

IMG_4674
Not pictured: the $20,000 I need to replace the roof and collapsing frame of the garage so I can move my shop back out of the tiny laundry room in our house. It is an admittedly great alternative until then.

Further hindering achieving the world’s definition of perfection, I’ve oft been accused (and rightly so) of having a short attention span when it comes to craft. In the short four years since I made the move from Taipei to Seattle and began a craft-centered lifestyle, I’ve dipped my toes in many ponds- woodwork, blacksmithing, gardening, and farming. To truly perfect any craft, you have to be fully immersed and singly focused. You have to practice, research, practice some more, try, succeed, fail, then try again. Allison Krauss had it right when she wrote the lyrics “I’m a jack of all trades and master of none,” because, as another wise person once said, “you can’t ride two horses with one ass.” “Perfect” as the world defines it is not a goal of mine in any of my various endeavors, and it’s a good thing, because with such great division of attention between them, progress and growth in every area is always very slow.

IMG_1956
Not pictured: I love traveling, I love meeting new people and learning new things, and especially having undivided time to woodwork. But it is also really hard to be away from Adam and the farm as much as I am.
IMG_2466
Not pictured: the other side of the chest after the shipping company broke it in transit

I’ve found, with overwhelming support from my peers in the woodworking industry, from my friends, and my “followers” that people like “real” a whole lot more than “perfect.” I’ve learned to laugh at my mistakes and share them freely. Sometimes, the best way to get over the frustration of cutting on the wrong side of the line or leaving the gate from the barn into the garden open is to take a photo of the carnage and share it with 40,000 people online who will laugh about the ridiculousness of the situation with you.

IMG_2172
Not pictured: my goats eating every other single one in the garden after a particularly audacious jail break
IMG_2413
Not pictured: the debacle trying to catch her, Ike, and Tina for their summer haircuts.

I’m a very impatient person, and, as any good American does, I love instant gratification. At times, I wish I could snap my fingers and become a “perfect” woodworker, blacksmith, and farmer. And while I’m wishing, I’d also like to re-write the White album in an afternoon on my guitar. But where would be the fun in that? If perfection had already been reached, where’d be the ups and downs of the journey? The joys of relationship- the humility in seeking mentorship would be lost. Trying to learn, trying to better yourself, working hard, doing your best, and taking time along the way to laugh at yourself and pet a few alpacas is about as “perfect” a journey I can imagine.

IMG_0277
Not pictured: the target, because I can’t throw that far. Also not pictured: my actual throwing face (trust me, you don’t want to see it)

 

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Anne Briggs Bohnett: Perfect, in 1000 words or less

  1. Anne, if you were great at everything you did, then you’d have to change your IG name to… well, something else.

    I appreciate you posting the things that don’t go right as much as the things that do.

    Ethan

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s