The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest

(And the Kingdom of God?)

The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest, 12″x18″, ink on paper

When drawing becomes a prayer, the image becomes a repository for the questions and thoughts offered to God, which then settle on the page. At first like a fine dust. Then into ridges and furrows. Then into fields and gardens.

I thought I had some language to accompany these developing drawings, but they are dissolving into new perspectives without words.

Spirit and Truth, Labor and Rest, 18″ x 12″, graphite on paper
center detail
detail of Mary Magdalene
Detail of the Martyr, Antipas

Trestle Table in Black Walnut

I delivered this table to my client’s office last week. It is good to finish a piece and be able to celebrate it. In spite of this I tend to experience a wide range of emotions and second guessing when I finish a job. One thing that never changes though is the gratitude I feel at the opportunity to be a woodworker, one who engages the authentic witness of the trees. They always have a real story to tell about our God and His majesty and faithfulness.

Trestle Table in Black Walnut

Discovering Design

The discovery of the life within the wood and the relationships they form is exciting to uncover. The early decisions are heavy. Every other act in the process is a response to these chalk marks as they try to hear and echo this walnut tree’s voice.

Underpinning Art with Discipline

The romance of the craft is backed up by countless hours of “mundane” work- the discipline that builds skill, and makes up the real life of labor. Days are spent creeping up on this scribed relationship and the foundational joinery. It’s a blessing to work, and to rest in the presence, at the same while striving towards the goal. Don’t mistake me, I’ve only had enough meager success at it to know it’s possible. 

Technology – Joinery

One side of the natural edge was curving away on bottom edge so I had to cut a shallow rebate in order to have a solid joint as well as cleanly scribed edge. This edge was reinforced with dominoes. The opposing edge curved towards the bottom edge and could be cut square. For it I made a floating contoured spline from Baltic birch. Assembled dry all is tight and solid.

Visualize and Establish Form

Finding a way to visualize the elements in a design is an engaging challenge. Krenov spoke of “composing”, and I’ve adopted his method and language -clamping up and mocking up relationships as the process moves forward. I don’t recall if he used tape, but I recently switched from using blue tape to white tape to mask off shapes- the difference is remarkable. 

Labor – Engaging Harvest

The last bit of joinery for the individual trestles is the horizontal rail completing the “H” form, which will eventually carry the longer rail that will join the two trestles together.

I’m grateful for this job, this material, this process. I heard a song that had a line which proclaimed “I am the record of His grace”.

Big Horn Tables in Winfield Walnut

Last year, in collaboration with Crosstimbers Woodworking, we designed and built a series of coffee tables and end tables for the Big Horn River Lodge in Montana.  Most of the walnut was salvaged from the rejected timber from the logging of a farm in Winfield, Kansas.  Photographer Steve Hebert traveled to the lodge and captured some beautiful images of the tables for us.

The Sacred Process

Is labor a sacrament?  The invitation of the Eighth Day?  A sacred collaboration with the living God?  I can’t help but to note that the call to labor in the garden came before the curse of toil.  I am certain that labor is about more than just earning my bread.  There is something deeper there, not just for the artist, but for the ditch digger and the roofer, the farmer and the nurse.  “Whatever you think, it’s more than that…”  ISB.

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