|by Scott Gibson
Taunton Press: 2003
Hardback, 202 pp., $$34.95
The environment within which a craftsman goes to work must have a decided effect on what he produces there. The size of a workshop does not seem to be a major factor, though ample room to move around and stage the processes of the work is important. Scott Gibson has put together a 'dream tour' in this book: beautiful color photos of over three dozen woodworking shops from San Francisco and Taos to Toronto and Long Island.
Tom McLaughlin's idyllic shop is high on a New Hampshire hillside, with a full southwest wall of windows topped by a semicircular arch of architectural glass to look out over the countryside. Drew and Louise Langsner purhased a homestead in the mountains of North Carolina and established a school of Country Workshops. This book opens the door to the shops of North Bennet Street School, Colonial Williamsburg, the Marc Adams School of Woodworking, the Nakashima compound, Jere Osgood's private studio and the shops of Michael Fortune, Christian Becksvoort, Richard Starr, David and Michelle Holzapfel and many others.
Each 'tour' tells the personal stories of how the craftsmen got started, what led them in their individual directions and where they feel they are headed in the future. Selections from each shop's work are shown, with amazing examples of art in the making. Gibson's text explains many things one might miss in the photos, such as why writer David Stiles minimizes his shop (only 10'x14') and tools so that the articles he writes for weekend woodworkers will be of projects any of his readers can easily design and build. His compact workshop is a lesson in efficiency.
Studio furniture maker Jon Brooks has decorated the grounds between house and workshop with spiral sculptures. The author says Brooks is likely to ask people who know nothing about art for comments on his current work: the guy who delivers the propane, the UPS driver.
"Many of these artisans," says Gibson, "are commercially successful, some of them at the top of their craft. Their work is shown in private and public collections all over the country. Even so, none has been made wealthy by his or her trade in quite the way our culture has enriched so many other professions. Our world is a vastly more interesting place because they don't seem to mind." And that is a fact that is to all our benefit.
. . . Barb Siddiqui