It’s an age old question. Which is correct, creation or evolution? Huge and lengthy discussions, even arguments have be raised over the meer subject. Sides have been taken and fights have took place over it. Few people can say they believe in both. A side must be chosen. Wait a minute. Maybe I need to be more clear here.This is not whether we came from monkeys or from God. No. In this case, I’m talking about furniture design.
For many woodworkers, designing a piece and seeing it through to completion is a process that gives a great sense of accomplishment. Typically, many woodworkers feel the pride that comes along with it. Some woodworkers feel that the piece is a signature of their style. True, it very much can be. Sam Moolf comes to mind. Creating a style that is uniquely tied to a creator is the hardest thing an artist can do. The style becomes an extension of their name. But if someone was to build Sam Moolf’s chair, would he be stealing his work?
I see, and hear, many people claiming that their created piece of furniture was copied by others. They get all worked up and overheated that someone else is building their design without getting permission or proper credit given to them. I have felt this way myself at times . But how “original” was the creation of the piece?
I happen to love Chippendale style highboys. It’s named that because of Thomas Chippendale, was one of many furniture designers at that time. Although, he was not the only one. He undoubtedly promoted that look and style more than others. Yet, his style was not truly original. He worked off of the outgoing Queen Anne style of furniture. Rococo was popular in France. And he added elements of Chinese influences too. By combining these features he did create a new movement, but without the influences of it’s predecessors, there would be no Chippendale style.
Gustav Stickley was another innovative designer. Without a doubt, many have hear his name and the Stickley furniture line continues to this day. Yet, that style was not solely created by him. Gustav in 1898 sailed to England to meet Charles Voysey, a well known architect using a simple form of Arts and Crafts style. Those in the Arts and Crafts style often referred to the exposed joinery from the medieval times. One of the popular pieces produced by Stickley is the Morris chair, which was homage to William Morris. And William Morris drew his influences from John Ruskin and Thomas Carlyle.
So can one really claim that he or she truly created the piece? Can we say that it is our own style and others shouldn’t use it? I would have to ask the question, “What are we taking credit for and more importantly who are we not giving credit to?”
We are all learning and growing together. It’s a give and take that all of us do. All my pieces are influenced by others before me and also currently around me. Even my knowledge of woodworking is from the many authors from my collection of books. Some tips have been lost. Some are found again. But nothing is really new.
Sharing is a part of helping to keep this wonderful craft alive. There is no room for selfishness and pride if we want to continue growing in this art form of woodworking. All of us woodworkers are just another link in the long chain of craftsmen before us.
So again I ask, is the furniture we design and build today evolved from our influences, past and present, or created out of divine intervention or some ingenious inspiration? I guess that depends….Did monkeys make the first chair, or did God create it? Perhaps the world will never know. One thing is for sure. I will continue to learn, and share my woodworking knowledge and…..share my dance moves too.
Go dance now people!