Inspiration is a funny thing for me. I’ve heard others speak of it like “lightning rods” or “strokes of genius” but I think of inspiration more like fuel. It’s what keeps me moving along toward something I am unaware of and I need a steady diet of it. Thanks to Instagram, other blogs, magazines, books, podcasts and YouTube, I can eat until my hearts content. And it’s not just the projects that others are making that inspire me, it’s the people themselves. Their stories, backgrounds, struggles; their own journeys into the world of craft. All of them combined help to shape my own story.

This week, my copy of issue three of Mortise & Tenon arrived in the mail. It is packed to the rim and heaping over with inspiring words and pictures. But the article by Danielle Rose Byrd stood out. I often find that woodworking is more than making things, it is a way to clear my mind and navigate the other areas of my life. Admittedly, it is my way of escaping. She hit a nerve and I found these words inspiring:

 “It’s nice to have a sense of belonging and the recognition of others, especially those who work in the same medium or even those who share the distinction of working with their hands. The paradox is that when we are more comfortable with ourselves, we no longer rely on that sort of recognition to build our self-worth, but it retains its value nonetheless. Just because we can manage without it does not mean it’s not appreciated, continually sought, or lacks purpose. We should be using our voices to propel each other forward instead of to find ways to separate us…” (Mortise and Tenon, Issue 3, p 85/88)

I have yet to uncover why these words are so powerful to me, but intend to let them percolate within my soul and propel me forward.

Some notions seem silly until you experience them. My oldest son, who is seven, is at that age where he thinks girls are a disease. For him, the epitome of disgusting is seeing people kiss on television. Unfortunately, it’s the season for holiday movies that have a lot of that sort of thing (he’s staying green). Last night we were watching The Santa Clause 2 starring Tim Allen. In the movie his son, Charlie, has reached the stage where girls leave butterflies in your stomach and describes that feeling to his dad. Of course, my son thinks he’s crazy; “That’ll never happen to me,” he says.

I took my first woodworking class at Marc Adams a couple of years ago. On day one you pick your bench for the week. Like a boy at his first school dance, I grabbed the one that wasn’t already occupied and happened to be closest to me. Turns out that the bench I picked was right beneath an unfinished stool started by Alf Sharp. My first experience of Alf Sharp came through an episode of the Highland Woodworker. He has a fascinating story and makes beautiful furniture but so do others. I can’t describe why but there is something about the man that inspires me.

All week long I worked underneath that stool. It was an unfinished product, but it was already beautiful. At the beginning of the week I had looked up and thought it was unfortunate that it was sitting on top of a spray booth collecting dust never to be finished. By the end of the week I realized that it had already served its purpose of educating others and continued to inspire future classes. It was a voice that propelled me forward.

Thanks again to Instagram, I was encouraged to watch a new video of Alf Sharp this week created by Brad Rodriguez (@fixthisbuildthat).

I think inspiration leaves you with that feeling of butterflies in the pit of your stomach; a knowledge that this (whatever it is) will change your life. Then again, it could just be last nights dinner.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Paul Hawkinson says:

    I appreciate what you share, Eric. It takes me a while to get through all that you have referred to and tie it all back together.

    What Danielle and you are talking about is what we should know New Testement prophecy to be. To build up, exhort, and comfort. 1Co 14:3

    That it occurs organically, hanging in a wood shop over your head really appeals to me.

    Hope i’m not terribly off base with this. I enjoy the enthusiasm you and James carry into the wood shop. You are both inspiring me.


    1. Eric Key says:

      Thanks! It is helpful to know that the references are slightly troublesome. However, I am glad that you are being inspired too. The wood shop is a creative space; I’m pretty sure that just stepping into the room does something to my brain chemistry. I can work for long hours and not even notice the time, but when I walk away I feel as though I have learned something about life. It’s a great place to be.


  2. Paul Hawkinson says:

    Only troublesome in a good way.
    Banish myopia.

    I had only put M&T 3 down because I received 1&2 for Christmas and I was working my way through in order.

    I had not read Danielle’s piece until you mentioned it.

    Blew my doors off. I will have to reread it shortly.


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