September 17, 2009

James Krenov RIP


James Krenov died a week ago yesterday. His Cabinetmaker's Notebook, sort of a Zen and the Art of Cabinet Making, was a book that really hit home with us when we first read it, and still to this day, it provides inspiration and clarity.

Around originality there is no doubt a law of diminishing returns; nowadays there has to be. Though maybe we are drowning not so much in the original as in the imitation, in just things. For many of us originality is a pressure; we are being pushed around by people wanting something new, different. Then there's the other pressure of doing the new without borrowing too much from the old, or at least without getting caught at it. Students are forever running to libraries to get various books - on peasant art, Scandinavian modern, Shaker, Colonial, Indian - one this and one that. They fill their heads with all these images, and then frantically try to come up with something of their own. As though you put these ingredients in a kettle, add water, stir, and cook for two hours. What do you get? Pottage. Pea soup.

There's a nice rundown of his life over at Fine Woodworking (here).

Cabinetmaker's Notebook at

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at September 17, 2009 5:11 AM
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