If you think of ART as “material organized to be expressive,” as the American philosopher Susanne Langer posits, than it’s really fun to see how artful just about anything can be, from marble…to paint…to clay…to music…yes, even, to food, to wood, to concrete (architecture), to plants (landscape architecture),. . . to just about anything: you name it! It is how these materials are molded, shaped, and refined by an artist – using their feelings!! – that accounts for the power, effectiveness, and success of a given art work.
How that piece of art moves the perceiver, who responds to that composition, is key. Does it engage their feelings and, perhaps, even cause an aesthetic experience (goose bumps)? It is this process of creating art through shaping materials – using our feelings as a guide – and then having someone else experience this work that explains how art is created, how it operates, how it involves a distinctly personal pursuit, and how dealing with art is a unique and essential component of what it is to be human.
Many readers of this blog are musicians, especially music students, studying the performance and teaching of their art. Posts like this are meant to encourage thinking “outside of the box” and to connect the field of music to other related fields. Being aware of curricular connections, particularly noticing how other subjects are similar – yet acknowledging and appreciating the differences – can help one to gain a fuller understanding of a broader perspective in life and art!
In Woodworking (as in Music) artfulness begins as a thought. For example, this summer I was thinking, “Sure would be fun to build something to store my grill in so it doesn’t rust too quickly.” I thought about it for a long time. Eventually, when I had some ideas ready to go, I worked out these ideas in a greater reality by drawing sketches on graph paper. The more I drew, the more the ideas were refined, until I came up with something that felt just right!
Deciding on what materials to buy (wood, paint, polycarbonate roofing, hinges, etc.) and imagining how they would be used (cut, shaped, assembled, painted, etc.) were all decisions made by thinking and feeling.
One can easily imagine how composers go through the exact same process, but with musical materials (pitches, rhythms, rests, instruments, etc.) and via musical genres and forms (songs, symphonies, sonata allegro, rondo, etc.). The composer uses staff paper (and now computer programs) to notate their musical thoughts -to put ineffable sounds into musical symbols for others to perform and interpret.
While the final product for the composer is creating a score as the foundation for the performance – enjoyed by performers and audiences alike – the final product for the woodworker is the creation of a project – in this case a Gemmiola, which is the combination of a grill keep, pergola, and gazebo. Sure, it has practical uses, obviously, but hopefully it is also something that can be appreciated artfully, with an appreciation of how the materials are used. Ideally, the senses are satisfied emotionally with such an endeavor, but it’s also nice to stay dry while grilling in the rain!