Friday, February 5, 2010

It is, but it isn't

Ellen Abbott and I did an art trade about a month ago.

Both of us think they got the better end of the deal. That makes it a good trade. Win/win, in a nonzero sum game. Would that everything else turned out as such.

The funny thing about the way I work is, it is not unlike creating a picture, then saying "I've got the perfect living room for this". And then building a house around the picture. Admittedly, a rather strange and backward way to do things, but hey, there you go. So it was with Ellen's piece. I started out with a cast glass piece, and said "I know just the right way to present this".

And this is what I am doing right now. I created two cast glass pieces. I am now building a cabinet for them. The facilities here at Harper College are really, all things considered, first rate. No four-year Illinois college has anything close to them. The woodshop, all by itself, has more equipment than most university studios. Granted, the kids have abused the place, but it is something I can work around. "Adapt, improvise, overcome", the Marine Corps credo, is mine as well.

In building the cabinet, I usually start out with a design, with a plan. As Dwight Eisenhower said, "Planning is essential. But all plans are useless". This seeming paradox is only so if you have never built anything, otherwise it makes perfect sense. My cabinet design usually changes after the first piece of wood is cut. Usually because I fuck up, and cannot afford to buy more wood. Dimensions change, or the plan is seen as in one aspect, unworkable.

It's Fun. But it isn't.

I'm looking at my piece of drawing paper with my instructions and admonitions on it. There are some cryptic phrases on there, things that made sense at the time. "Floor is 1 1/4 inches up from bottom, sides, front and back!" Exclamation point, which meant it must have been important. I honestly have no clue about it.

There are dimensions of the cabinet and stand on the paper, as well as perspective drawings, exploding diagrams, and orthographic projections of the piece. Quite a lot for a glorified box! And then there are directions to myself:
  1. Dill, peg, and glue front frame
  2. Buy hardware for doors
  3. Cut panels, fit and glue back frame
  4. Cut front and back panels to match (H+W)
  5. Cut side height to match front and back
  6. Cut bottom to match length of front and back
  7. Cut sides and bottom width to match
  8. Drill, peg, and glue bottom, side, front, back
  9. Drill inside top holes to match side, front and back, peg
  10. Route out top panel, ogive
  11. Buy birch panel (the good stuff)
  12. Glue bottom of stand
  13. Cut keyhole slots in back of cabinet
  14. Buy brass angle brackets to secure stand to cabinet
  15. Buy magnetic stops for doors
  16. Stain doors, cabinet, top, stand
  17. Varnish front of doors
  18. Patina bronze frame
  19. Glue up doors (with bronze and glass inside)
  20. Install light
  21. Buy light first
  22. Install doors
  23. Glue on top
The list probably makes little sense to you. There are some items, in retrospect, that barely make sense to me. And it is nice to see that past-self-Johnny takes no chances, assumes future-self-Johnny is some kind of slack-jawed meat-slapper, and so throws in reminders like the parenthetical one in Item 19, or hopes he reads Item 21.

Already I have a bit of nostalgia about this cabinet, even though I am still only on Item 11.

It was no fun. But it was.


  1. Oh, I totally relate to this. Unfortunately, some of those obscure ones seemed to make perfect sense to me.

    I've just spent the last four days laminating about 550 jewels, of which a little less than half had already had dicroic glass glued to it and ground smooth, to the window behind the altar of a chapel. At one point during the week, a lady came in (we had lots of visitors pop in when they would notice us working) and asked me if it was fun. Fun?! Lady, this is work, I'm up on a friggin' 12' ladder. But now that it's done? Yeah, it was fun.

  2. Norse cousin! Do you have the blue eye?

  3. I've the blue with the gold ring in it - which makes it look green.