Growing up, I was surrounded by many influences. As they pertain to my personal aesthetic, I place them into 5 categories: dedication to craft, resourcefulness, regard for tradition, openness to outside influence, and love of nature.
When I was little, both my parents worked and I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. They lived in a Chicago Bungalow built by my grandfather’s family, who had a construction business back in the mid-1900s. Though it was never his job, my grandfather was a lifelong maker and handyman. He taught me how to use tools and build things in his basement workshop when I could barely speak, and I’ve pretty much been making things ever since.
I also learned resourcefulness from him and my grandmother. Though I grew up wanting for nothing, they had to learn how to live without wasting anything. My grandfather would save any piece of material that could be used to make something. Broken things were fixed. Mold was scraped off of food, and things on hand were used up before buying new. Later in life, I would relearn these lessons by necessity, and when I did, I was glad I’d already been introduced to them.
Another influence I was glad to have in my life was tradition. Our house was filled with antique furniture, heirlooms, and memorabilia my mother had inherited. Everything from cookbooks to military records, old tobacco containers, 1933 Chicago World’s Fair memorabilia, my great-grandfather’s bowties, even a 90 year old cast iron skillet I regularly use to this day. Not only did I learn to value these things, but I was constantly looking at them too! So whether I like it or not, they’re a part of my aesthetic.
Where my mother contributed antiques from the lives of her European immigrant ancestors, my father’s possessions told another story. He grew up abroad in Africa and the Middle East. As a child, he was almost eaten by a crocodile, climbed a pyramid in Egypt, and was exposed to many rich cultures I may never have the privilege of seeing. What I did see was the furniture, sculptures, and decorations his family brought back with them to the states. These objects, too, influenced my aesthetic, though I engage with them differently. They are not from the culture of my own people, but something borrowed from another. I cannot tout them as my own, but I can, and do try to learn from aesthetics outside the sphere of my own experience.
Finally, I’m influenced by nature! I was lucky enough to grow up right next to a natural marsh ecosystem. Every year, countless species would make their home next to ours. We regularly saw birds, deer, muskrats, foxes, snakes, and insects of many varieties. And many fascinating plants as well! I also had the chance to go camping in many other beautiful places. Without a doubt, the time I’ve spent in nature has influenced my aesthetic as well (and made me a bit kooky!).
For my project, I’m building a nightstand. I actually started it at the beginning of the semester so I’ve already made a fair amount of headway. I’m making it using traditional drawbored mortise and tenon construction and if I have the time, I’d like to ornament it as well. So far, I’ve made the frame, side panels, and have started working on the drawer slide mechanisms. After that I’ll still need to make the top and drawers. I’ll then assemble everything with glue and wood pegs, and finally, finish the outside surfaces.
Chopping mortises for the frame and gluing up panels