This Crafted World is a discussion between Harry T. Morris (furniture maker) and Shane Orion Wiechnik (furniture conservator) diving deep into craft, materials, and how understanding these things changes the way we work and see the world.
The final episode of Season 1 revisits the question Harry and Shane had at the beginning about trying to define what it is in this field that they find so particularly important. Trying to step away from conversations of hand tools vs machine tools or pre-industrial vs post-industrial, Shane puts forth three aspects that for him define craft the way the he engages with and appreciates it. He and Harry discuss how craft is an intimate relationship between person and material, how it is a process that one improves at and masters through practice, and how a certain amount of risk is essentially part of the process. It's a big episode, and they cover a lot of topics that matter deeply to both of them.
Shane has been working towards his journeyman year, and Harry has finally started doing woodwork in his new shop.
Harry and Shane are joined by Designer/Maker Peter Spaulding (@Iwao_wood.and.art) who takes over pitching duty. The three discuss their complex feelings about river tables and snobbery in the field. Peter proposes a virtue of newness and discusses how his experience writing poetry has informed his approach to design. Shane is concerned when newness is over-valued. Harry finds it important to have reasons and purpose behind your work.
Peter has been steaming objects and experimenting with copper dye. Shane has been struggling with colour and nitric acid. Harry is still moving into the new workshop and will be for some time.
Shane and Harry are joined by cabinetmaker and author Nancy Hiller. Shane discusses one of Nancy's publications, 'Historic Preservation in Indiana' and its relevance to an idea of things that aren't the supposedly important things. He claims that this is his entry into the design conversation, even though it's not about design at all. They talk about the importance of how objects tell the story of humans, how the world is made, and all the 'not capital-I important' things and people worth studying and loving. Harry talks about anxiety when doing built-ins and the intrinsic value of making hedgehog houses. Nancy talks about making a modest living doing things that matter for and are appreciated by her clientele.
Nancy is about to start work on a kitchen and getting back in the workshop, while also putting out some more publications, Shane recently attended a chair making course, and Harry is setting up his new workshop.
Harry tries in the nicest way possible to talk about why he doesn't like most student exhibition and gallery furniture pieces. Shane put's forth some concerns about the designer/maker focus in schools and some concerns about his own biases. They discuss leaving maker's marks in their work and the nature of just learning to be a good craftsperson vs making something new.
Shane is feeling an odd confidence with his low skill level, and Harry is settling into his new workshop.
Shane and Harry discuss challenges to staying focused on tasks and the various things in our lives that pull us out of it, along with the difficulty of working a normal day. Harry recommends watching the movie Soul, but blatantly ignores one of it's major themes. Shane discusses why he doesn't like working in an office and finds being attached to one very distracting and unpleasant. They also discuss the importance of a good workspace.
Shane also wraps up work on his apothecary box, while Harry finishes up a couple small tables and begins preparing to move into a new workshop.
Shane and Harry are joined by Ben Strano from Fine Woodworking to talk about learning from masters. Ben is a passionate professional hobbyist woodworker who's job is often to distill the knowledge of professionals for hobbyists at home. Shane and Harry talk with Ben about professional pacing, the value of seeing in person what a professional result looks like, how being the biggest idiot in the room is a good thing, the challenges of professionals who don't know how or don't want to teach. Then Harry and Ben geek out about pencils.
We guarantee hands down that this is the single best woodworking interview with a woodworker where most questions are answered with sound engineering anecdotes. Seriously!
Harry talks about woodworking courses seem to either have students make a product or learn skills and asks about making skills based courses more engaging. Shane talks about separating out each skill and giving every technique its own space and focus, and they discuss whether having a project is more engaging or a distraction.
Harry is getting to the end of his drawered unit project and Shane is struggling to rework shellac surfaces.
Harry and Shane finally got a couple questions! Shane adds a few more notes to the conversation on Made To Last including agents of deterioration and whether things should last forever. Marc asks about self-employment vs normal employment and Robbie asks about using a linisher to flatten a plane blade.
Shane's been cutting wooden threads and teaching finishing, while harry keeps working on his drawered unit and helps homeless hedgehogs sleep safe.
Harry talks about what it means for something to be 'made to last' and questions which aspects of an object most impact its longevity. Shane complains about longcase clocks. Harry mentions his transition from showy joinery to something more likely to be repairable, and they both agree it is important to give something the best possible chance it can have.
Shane talks about prep he has done for an upcoming finishing course including making his own varnish, and Harry continues work on his drawered unit and hedgehog houses.
Shane puts forth the question to Harry, "How do you justify making new things in a world that already has so much stuff?"
They discuss the motivations behind our work, concerns for longevity and repairability, and touch on the importance of finding ikigai. Harry has also been designing hedgehog homes, and Shane has waxed a household of furniture.
Harry discusses his path to understanding sharpness. Shane and Harry debate how best to teach a departure from “that’ll do”. Harry makes a highly complicated concertina workshop handout. Shane starts milling timber for his apothecary box.
Shane pitches to Harry what the hell the point of this podcast is. We talk about the importance of having a deeper understanding of crafts and materials and how they make us better people.
Harry talks about a shoji screen inspired door he just finished, and Shane is getting started on an 19th century Apothecary box.