(11/8/18: This cabinet has just won Best in Show for Craftsmanship at the Waterfire Fine Furnishings Show in Providence, RI)
Compliments are great and I thank anyone who's ever given me one.
But the truth is, after a while, compliments don't mean much. You kind of expect them, there's no surprise when they happen and that surge of pride in accomplishment that one initially feels diminishes over time. For me, now, compliments move me - require me - to consider my own work, objectively: Was it a success? Well, it's finished. Did it come out the way you've envisioned it would? Maybe. Don't know. Not sure...
It's just a bunch of dissenting opinions.
About 10 years ago I received an email from someone attending the University of Singapore. I don't know if they were a man or woman but I suspect they were young.
The first sentence of the email was one I've heard many times in one form or another: "I doubt I'll ever have enough money to buy one of your boxes." The truth is I don't even have enough money to buy one of my boxes, so I just shrugged when I read those words.
For some reason, I thought that was the nicest thing anyone ever said about my work. Not even sure why. Not even sure if it was meant as a compliment. But I was elated. I returned an email thanking the sender. I should have sent them a box.
A few months later I suffered one of those "emails have vanished" situations that were so common on computers then, and the email was lost. Which is why I haven't been able to get back in touch with the sender. Which is something I'd really like to do.
Because the comment, itself, has stayed with me, in an unexpected way. Sometimes, when I'm working on a project and things aren't going well, I get extremely discouraged. What's the point of all this? Why spend so much time worrying about details, the thickness of a handle, the width of a molding, the arrangement of space in a drawer? Is the partition too tall? The space too small? That choice of wood is wrong; what can I do about it? Is there anything that can done about it?
If it gets really bad, I continually obsess about it, grow dejected and distant. And for what? A pile of wood?
But then, if I'm lucky, those words come back to me, a respite.
He raised orchids.
Was it a pleasant memory for the violin student? I think so. It seemed so. I sure hope so.
Maybe there is a point...