Patience… Oh Really?

Posted on Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 at 4:32 am

patience -noun 1. the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.

If I had a dollar for every time (over the years) I’ve heard someone say: “Gee, you must have a lot of patience.” Or: “Wow, you possess tons of patience to sit there and do that.” I’d be rich. To be fair, I have also been told (much to my delight) how rewarding and fulfilling my type of work must be. For myself and others like me the creation process is very rewarding.

We craftsmen love what we do. Therefore “patience” has nothing to do with passion. The fact is, no one requires patience to do what they love; it is the observer that most often requires patience.

In 2001, I enrolled into the American School of French Marquetry here in San Diego. The only thing I knew about marquetry was, I knew nothing about marquetry. It’s that simple, I knew zero about the art.

My teacher was Patrick Edwards, a graduate of Ecole Boulle in Paris. Patrick assured me that I was his ideal candidate for becoming a student; after inquiring about any prerequisites.

I mailed in my tuition and eagerly awaited to arrive on the scheduled day. Monday. I showed up to be the only student in this class! The school was in its infancy and I was fine with that. I found myself being lectured, one on one, about the fundamentals straight away. I was off, hiking briskly into undiscovered country.

For years I wondered how complex marquetry was executed. Patrick introduced me to the infamous book by Pierre Ramond: MARQUETRY. He then demonstrated the workings of the chevalet de marquetery, the French tool for cutting marquetry. In the first couple hours I found myself quickly building my first marquetry packet, stuffed with three different species of veneer, and then gluing a design to the face.

Patrick showed me where in the design to drill the hole for inserting the jeweler’s blade, and how to secure the blade into the saw-frame’s jaws. If memory serves, from the time I walked through the door, to the time I sat down at the tool was about four hours.

I was now sitting on a chevalet, ready to start sawing! I spent the rest of that day cutting out my very first marquetry packet. On day two, while assembling the marquetry picture, I remember thinking to myself: “Wait a second, I just drilled a hole in a stack of veneer, and cut out the design. THAT’S IT?! THIS IS THE BIG SECRET?”

I felt like “the guy” wondering the desert dying of thirst while searching for an oasis, and then I found it! That feeling was to be short lived. Over the next few days I came to realize my first etude (study) was simply a miniscule and insignificant scratch on the surface. I was undeterred, for I had discovered my wellspring of passion.

The term “ fine woodworking” is an embodiment of many facets: carving, marquetry, turning, hand-cut joinery, finishing, etc. Every woodworker becomes passionate for doing one or two of the above mentioned. He or she really loves to do only that; the passion. Patience, on the other hand, may be required for work such as glue ups, or finishing; for many of us it is the latter.

So, the lesson is: try not to get irritated with someone else’s passions. Show a little patience will ya?

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