Jeanette cuts my hair. She also passes out sage advice free of charge. One day I posed a question to her while she snipped away. “Does anyone actually come up with anything totally new with hair, since we have been experimenting with fashion for thousands of years?” Without missing a clip she said, “Sure, it’s just that the really new stuff is on the runways in Paris and is way, way, out there.”
I’m a traditionalist, that doesn’t mean I am against creativity or change. It just means that I veiw design as a chain that has strong links to great work in the past. To quote Steven W. Semes writing about classical architecture “ Throughout the classical tradition, the highest esteem has been given to new works that articulate new expressive possibilities or contribute new compositional variables to the older models without violating or diminishing them.” At the heart of this approach is becoming familiar with good models. Taking the time to study good work and build up a library in my own mind. Here’s the best part. This was once a very difficult proposition reserved for the rich and privileged. There was a time when learning to design meant taking the grand tour of Europe to view first hand the art and architecture. Today, a woodworker of modest means has unprecedented access great work via printed material and the many resources on the web. Two of my favorite resources are the Chipstone digital collection of American Decorative Art and the HABS (Historic American Building Survey). The Chipstone collection provides some wonderful images and many detail shots of American period furniture. The HABS material is a collection in the library of Congress which includes photos and blueprints of significant buildings throughout the United States. Both are worth a look.