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Thread: "Live edge lumber" musings

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frederick Skelly View Post
    I don't care much for live edge furniture. While I admire and aspire to George Nakashima's level of craftsmanship, I don't enjoy looking at much of his work. I'm sorry guys, I just don't.YMMV.

    You are not alone Frederick. I just spent a while on the Nakashima web site, and came away thinking they are at least as good at marketing as they are at woodworking. I was not moved by the conoid desk - it made me think of a poor game of the woodworking version of Mr. Potato Head. IMHO. I also spent a bit of time looking for a pic of a live edge table I really liked. No luck. And the river stuff - not for me.

    On the other hand, I'll be very sorry if the supply of slabs and flitches dries up. I buy a lot of my lumber in slabs because I see figure and character in some that I want to use. Almost all slabs have been resawn to capture that figure for use in a table, box, desk, lamp, clock, etc. Only one slab has ever left the shop intact and that was because the boss wanted a live edge coffee table that had something referencing the breast cancer ribbon. And she always gets what she wants.

    But if someone is putting bread on the table making live edge tables, etc, more power to them. Pipe flanges, wire legs, stumps for a bases, whatever. If there is a market for it - and there surely is - why not if it will feed the family.

    2020-01-02_10h27_06.jpg
    If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

  2. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by Gordon Stump View Post
    I did not sell single clock. So woodworking craftsmanship verses live edge popularity was a fail for me.
    It's been more than a decade since I've had a stand-alone clock in my house. I suspect I'm not alone, and this would highly affect marketability. Shelves, well.. we always need those.

    I'll just agree, otherwise, with what Derek's said. He's stated it as well, likely better, than I could. The timing of this thread is interesting though, as I'm starting to sketch a mid-century credenza for our stereo and other entertainment electronics. Because of this, I've been looking at a lot of Nakashimas designs again, most of them without a live edge.

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike stenson View Post
    It's been more than a decade since I've had a stand-alone clock in my house. I suspect I'm not alone, and this would highly affect marketability. Shelves, well.. we always need those.
    Some people still like clocks. I can think of over a dozen in my house, shop, and barn. But only a few are in high quality cases, wood or metal.

  4. #34
    This entire thread is fascinating to me because you see the same reaction to trendy fads in all creative endeavors. I apologize for the lengthy diatribe but I felt compelled to share my two cents. I taught AP Art and Design and AP Photography and what was trendy in each discipline was always an important topic of discussion. At the end of the year, these students have their portfolios evaluated by a panel of experts and that score decides if they get college credit for the class. I quickly learned that students who submitted portfolios with work that followed trends often scored higher than work of similar strength that was much more original. It was clear that even “subject experts” were not immune to draw of what was trendy.

    The rise of social media has accelerated this process immensely; things go from being novel and cool, to massively popular, to passé very quickly. With this being said, high quality work and true talent supersede trendiness. Just as the best work does not rely on a trend for its appeal or strength; it cannot be dismissed if it happens to fall into the trendy category.

    Chile, where I am from originally has areas and groups of people that have relied on rugged, rustic furniture often made from slabs with basic hand tools (often of low quality at that) for at least 100 years. This has occurred not because of a trend but is the result of a lack of heavy machines, and an abundance of high quality lumber. The style is undeniably primitive but very functional. What is interesting to me is how easy it is to identify pieces made by the craftsmen who clearly “get it.” Despite being similar in style their work is more refined, with greater attention to detail, and an inherent understanding of good design.

    I think the same holds true with live edge furniture, river tables, pipe furniture, factory cart tables, fancy chopping boards, the distressed look etc. I have seen some stunning pieces, in addition to pieces that were only stunning in how bad they looked. We all have different aesthetic tastes, differing levels of talent and ability and differing access to tools and materials. Furthermore we undeniably influenced by those with whom we choose to associate. Groupthink and opinion echo chambers don’t really serve anybody. Just as it is no surprise when I see similar threads on internet photography enthusiast forums being dismissive of: low-fi aesthetic, selective coloring in BW, extreme HDR, etc; I am not surprised that a thread on SMC espousing a slightly smug dismissal of the live edge trend camouflaged as “musings” has mostly become a pile-on of homogenous opinions.
    Yes there are some legitimate cons of the current fad, many of which were stated in previous posts, but anything that brings attention to our shared hobby/calling/profession and encourages people be creative, and make something for themselves or seek out one of us to make it for them can’t be all bad. Instead of merely focusing on the negative I believe we would be better served by analyzing what if anything can be learned from the rise in such trends.

    I just wanted to add that posts like Jim Beckers are exactly what I mean by thoughtful analysis as opposed to dismissal.
    Last edited by John K Jordan; 01-02-2020 at 3:44 PM.

  5. #35
    Deriding live edge as a category is about as ridiculous as loving it as a category.

    There is good and bad design in just about everything.

    The proliferation of bad or lazy design is not unique to live edge furniture.

    I would argue that good live edge furniture is hard to make because it’s so hard to hide in details. So much of what’s out there feels thrown together. But that doesn’t make the whole class of it bad.
    Last edited by Prashun Patel; 01-02-2020 at 9:35 PM.

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cristobal Figueroa View Post
    This entire thread is fascinating to me because you see the same reaction to trendy fads in all creative endeavors. I apologize for the lengthy diatribe but I felt compelled to share my two cents. I taught AP Art and Design and AP Photography and what was trendy in each discipline was always an important topic of discussion. At the end of the year, these students have their portfolios evaluated by a panel of experts and that score decides if they get college credit for the class. I quickly learned that students who submitted portfolios with work that followed trends often scored higher than work of similar strength that was much more original. It was clear that even “subject experts” were not immune to draw of what was trendy.

    The rise of social media has accelerated this process immensely; things go from being novel and cool, to massively popular, to passé very quickly. With this being said, high quality work and true talent supersede trendiness. Just as the best work does not rely on a trend for its appeal or strength; it cannot be dismissed if it happens to fall into the trendy category.

    Chile, where I am from originally has areas and groups of people that have relied on rugged, rustic furniture often made from slabs with basic hand tools (often of low quality at that) for at least 100 years. This has occurred not because of a trend but is the result of a lack of heavy machines, and an abundance of high quality lumber. The style is undeniably primitive but very functional. What is interesting to me is how easy it is to identify pieces made by the craftsmen who clearly “get it.” Despite being similar in style their work is more refined, with greater attention to detail, and an inherent understanding of good design.

    I think the same holds true with live edge furniture, river tables, pipe furniture, factory cart tables, fancy chopping boards, the distressed look etc. I have seen some stunning pieces, in addition to pieces that were only stunning in how bad they looked. We all have different aesthetic tastes, differing levels of talent and ability and differing access to tools and materials. Furthermore we undeniably influenced by those with whom we choose to associate. Groupthink and opinion echo chambers don’t really serve anybody. Just as it is no surprise when I see similar threads on internet photography enthusiast forums being dismissive of: low-fi aesthetic, selective coloring in BW, extreme HDR, etc; I am not surprised that a thread on SMC espousing a slightly smug dismissal of the live edge trend camouflaged as “musings” has mostly become a pile-on of homogenous opinions.
    Yes there are some legitimate cons of the current fad, many of which were stated in previous posts, but anything that brings attention to our shared hobby/calling/profession and encourages people be creative, and make something for themselves or seek out one of us to make it for them can’t be all bad. Instead of merely focusing on the negative I believe we would be better served by analyzing what if anything can be learned from the rise in such trends.

    I just wanted to add that posts like Jim Beckers are exactly what I mean by thoughtful analysis as opposed to dismissal.
    Cristobal,

    I started this thread just to voice my opinion, nothing more, nothing less and I maintain my position that I think that much of L.E. movements' growth has cheapened George Nakashima's creative work in the same way as those who put their cell phone in B&W mode and take a selfie at the base of Half Dome and think of themselves to be a photographer like Adams or Weston. I would think that a former instructor of design, art, and photography would be somewhat alarmed at the sacrifice of skill and knowledge at the altar of the creativity of the masses. I don't hate all live edge. I like some of Nakashima's original pieces and there are some craftsman today, including members on this forum that have produced L.E. pieces that are thoughtfully and skillfully done. It is not a style I'm drawn to anymore though and if I sound smug for saying so, so be it but as I said my intentions were not to offend.

    I would also like you to share what you personally have learned if anything by analyzing the rise in such trends.

    I would also like you to know I feel honored by drawing out from you your first post after your membership of 10 years on this forum. Welcome to SMC

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prashun Patel View Post
    Deriding live edge as a category is about as ridiculous as loving it as a category.

    There is good and bad design in just about everything.

    We can hate the proliferation of bad or lazy design but that’s not unique to live edge furniture. I would argue that GOOD live edge furtnitue is very hard to make because it’s so hard to hide in details. This is why nakashima was so good. If you don’t get it, I humbly suggest studying the good stuff more before deriding it all as a class.
    Not sure if this was directed at me as the OP or not but I'll try to clarify my position anyway. One of the first books to draw me into Woodworking was "Soul of the Tree" I liked Nakashima so much that I read his materials over and over. I did like live edge but no longer do I care for it partly due to the proliferation of poorly created interpretations of George's work and partly just because my tastes have changed. I also liked Chippendale and Hepplewhite and though I still admire the skill of those early fine craftsmen and their work, the mass produced imitations last century had the effect of me getting tired of that style. And yes I do know there are some fine craftsman much better than myself still producing that style. I do think that because of the ease of making a poorly crafted live edge piece more folks make it. Even massed produced Hepplewhite an Chippendale required some skill if you were a moulder, saw, or duplicator lathe operator.

  8. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by Cristobal Figueroa View Post
    Just as it is no surprise when I see similar threads on internet photography enthusiast forums being dismissive of: low-fi aesthetic, selective coloring in BW, extreme HDR, etc; I am not surprised that a thread on SMC espousing a slightly smug dismissal of the live edge trend camouflaged as “musings” has mostly become a pile-on of homogenous opinions. .
    Rant ON.
    I couldn't care less about what is artistic or trendy: if it is ugly, I don't like it. I don't need "experts" to tell me what is ugly or what is unappealing - only my 2 eyes. There's no "group think" or "smugness" involved, no "pile on" or "homogeneous opinions". Just my own eyes. I personally find most live edge unappealing. Likewise, I personally find Picasso's painting ugly.

    Can new painters learn about color and texture from Picasso's butt-ugly work? Yes, even my untrained eye can do so. But I sure hope they don't have to copy it to pass an art course. And if a school requires students to emulate a stupid or ugly trend to get college credit, then the "art" department has FAILED - they are evaluating against the wrong criteria.
    Rant OFF.

    YMMV.

    Fred Skelly
    Last edited by Frederick Skelly; 01-02-2020 at 7:27 PM. Reason: Typo
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  9. #39
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    What's really important here is that this is a subjective and individual thing as is the concept of "ugly". Fortunately, we have SO many choices in the world!
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  10. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by Frederick Skelly View Post
    Rant ON.
    I couldn't care less about what is artistic or trendy: if it is ugly, I don't like it. I don't need "experts" to tell me what is ugly or what is unappealing - only my 2 eyes. There's no "group think" or "smugness" involved, no "pile on" or "homogeneous opinions". Just my own eyes. I personally find most live edge unappealing. Likewise, I personally find Picasso's painting ugly.
    Is this an argument against Picasso, or an argument against medical malpractice?

  11. #41
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    I like live edge and Adirondack styles, if they're well thought out (in my subjective opinion) and well executed. I am not so fond of epoxy and such things for furniture, though I do like it for canoe building, to keep the water on the outside. I know a lot of people like things that I think are ugly, and I like things that probably many other people find ugly too.
    Zach

  12. #42
    Jon first let me reply to you. I apologize if my comment felt aimed at you, it was not intended that way. I am actually thrilled you made you post and opened this topic up for discussion and I agree that you didn’t do so in an offensive way. I certainly wasn’t trying to single you out but I see how my quoting “musings” made it seem that way. My apologies. I certainly have fairly strong opinions regarding design and aesthetic sensibilities and I am not out to change anybody’s mind. Part of me thinks we can have an interesting discussion and it was disheartening to see to an interesting topic devolve into what felt a little bit like “let’s collectively make fun of live edge.” Obviously if the topic drew me out of lurking I am interested and believe we can discuss LE and “over done” trends without potentially insensitive comments comparing peoples projects that they have shared with the forum to shag carpeting needing to be thrown away. Prashun perfectly captured my feelings when he wrote, ”Deriding live edge as a category is about as ridiculous as loving it as a category” and with significantly more parsimony. My eyes roll just as hard when I hear things like "slab tables are so played out, everyone is making them now" as when I hear "GAWD I loves me some live edge furniture MOAR river tables!" I was/am merely trying to encourage us as a group to avoid 50 posts about how we all agree LE is played out and have the more interesting discussion. Darcy's comment about pallet trend was hilarious, and the Haiku actually made a good point.

    Now I don’t understand/agree with the concept that poor but widespread imitation somehow cheapens Nakashima’s work. I think if anything it shows that simply trying to emulate the look of something without understanding the intricacies in the design philosophy will often lead to subpar results. It speaks to Nakashima’s brilliance that despite a seemingly simple approach there are layers of complexity in the many minute choices he made in his designs. The same applies to Ansel Adam's work. In photography it is even more frustrating because technology has gotten so good that it is easier than it has ever been to become competent technically. It also forced me to come to terms that simple technical competence of a subject does not equal inspiring work. There were a bunch of average photographers who were no longer able to rely on expensive initial investment and lack of access to protect their livelihood. I truly believe that a master of hand cut dovetail joinery should not be threatened but a hobbyist with a side gig making pocket hole drawers and cabinets.

    I did try and touch upon what I have learned in similar situations with my involvement teaching AP Art and Design (photography is included in the design designation). I believe that I may not have done a good job because it seems like my intent was misunderstood. I was in no way defending situations where "trendy" art received a score higher than it probably deserved. Let me make this clear, those situations were reprehensible especially when you consider the qualifications needed to become an AP reader. I was merely trying to point out the power of trends in shaping people's aesthetic sensibilities, especially when they lack exposure and background in a subject. I was also trying to point out the predictable reactions from different demographics. Obviously a community like SMC is going to have a much higher percentage of people who are able to recognize the widespread proliferation of work in a trendy style that is often not very good which is why I said I was not surprised at the overall direction that the thread took. I agree with your sentiment that you cannot wait for the the passing of this fad, but perhaps for a slightly different reason. Fads like this make it all too easy to simply dismiss good work just because it's trendy, and often as you stated yourself, good work that is not part of the trend gets lost in the flood of subpar work that dominates etsy, tv programming, instagram etc.

    Fredrick Skelly I will try to tackle a thoughtful response to your contribution but it is going to have to be in subsequent post I am tired of thinking and typing.
    Last edited by Cristobal Figueroa; 01-02-2020 at 9:23 PM. Reason: Switched to desktop

  13. #43
    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Dawson View Post
    Is this an argument against Picasso, or an argument against medical malpractice?
    I don't think it's either one. Leanardo De Vinci made fun of Michalangelo and the dirtiness of chiseling rocks. But some
    think he had talent.

  14. #44
    I think it's all a giant conspiracy by the resin/epoxy industry. Economist Bruce Yandle might call them the bootleggers to the woodworking Baptists in this movement.

  15. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Dawson View Post
    Is this an argument against Picasso, or an argument against medical malpractice?
    Hehehe. That was pretty good Doug.
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

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