Canadian Woodworking

Looking for the Right Inspiration

Author: James Jackson
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
Published: June July 2020
beginners journey
beginners journey

How do you get inspired to go back to the shop each day to start a new project?

Where do you find your inspiration?

More specifically, what inspires you as a wood­worker? I’ve been wrestling with that issue for some time now.

As I’ve written in previous columns, I’m a newspaper reporter by day and one of the big perks of the job is that many of the stories I write come to me without a lot of extra effort.

The really successful local fundraiser. The neighbourhood house that catches fire. The government press release for new hospital funding that lands in my inbox. The company that goes bankrupt. None require a ton of inspiration to find.

That doesn’t mean the job is completely devoid of creative work that requires outside-the-box thinking. As a journalist, my job is to look into the community I cover and find those underreported sto­ries or the trends that others miss. It takes a lot of hard work to be successful.

All of this brings me back to the topic of inspiration.

I’ve heard it said that by the time a creator begins to notice a trend, or realizes what’s popular, that trend has already passed you by. Remember a few years ago when those octagonal or hexagonal shelves were all the rage? It’s been months since I’ve seen anything like that posted on Instagram or YouTube.

How do you become the trendsetter instead of always being the one that chases the newest trends?

A YouTube woodworker I subscribe to recently posted a pretty honest video about how the number of videos he’d produced for his channel had begun to decline in recent weeks, mainly because he’d simply started to lose inspiration.

He was losing the drive needed to get out into his shop every week and create a new project, then spend three or four days perfecting it, making a video, editing that video, then posting it online for fans.

I imagine that’s what it’s like for professional woodworkers who rely on the craft to pay their bills every day. Sure, there are the bread-and-butter projects like tables and cabinets, but no doubt that gets mundane very quickly.

I don’t think there’s a profound answer to this question, either. I’ve had several conversations with my dad about how to stay engaged while in the woodshop.

But is anything truly timeless? Mid-century modern furniture enjoyed a massive renaissance thanks to period-specific TV shows like “Mad Men”.

Maybe that’s the trick – if you enjoy making a specific style of wooden objects, and you wait long enough, it will eventually come back around and become trendy again.

And if the items you made didn’t sell the first time around, you’ve just given yourself a head start on becoming the next trendsetter in two or three decades.

James Jackson - [email protected]

James is a woodworker, a freelance writer, a former newspaper reporter and father to two amazing girls.

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