Category Archives: design workshops

Mastering Design, Is there a Shortcut?

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Yes, but it’s not what you might think. Design, like almost any other creative act involves some fundamentals. My wife Barb loves to paint. She’d humbly say she’s still paying her dues, but she’s put the time and effort into understanding color. I’m always amazed that she uses just four tubes of paint – red, yellow, blue, and white to create any color. And she does it almost without a thought.

So is there a shortcut to good design? No, if you are looking for it in some new touch screen whizzbobble. Yes, if you think there has got to be a better way than endlessly stumbling around in the fog trying to latch onto something that might resonate. Truth is, the shortcut is putting in the time and effort to understand the fundamentals. Once learned those basic skills become enough of who you are that they spark the intuition.

 

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If you would like to awaken that intuition within, I have two workshops lined up in coming weeks you won’t want to miss. July 11th & 12th at Richard Grell’s in Hudson Ohio,  and Aug 8 & 9 at Lie-Nielsen Toolworks in Warren Maine.

George R. Walker

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Top Ten Reasons To Take a Design Workshop

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These “Top Ten Reasons” I gleaned from woodworkers who have taken my two day intensive design workshop.

1. Improved judgement – designs you like, you will know why you like them.

2. Improved judgement – designs that suck, you will know why they suck.

3. Improved judgement – designs that fall short of the mark, you will have an idea why and how they can be fixed.

4. Feel comfortable (excited even) designing with curves.

5. Learn multiple simple drawing methods and tips that will help you think through a design and yield results that delight you.

6. Become a better critic of your own work.

7. Learn enough structure to get from blank paper to finished project while still leaving plenty of space for creative surprises.

8. Learn to make small adjustments that can push an ok design into a splendid design.

9. Learn to read and deconstruct great furniture and architecture to deepen your understanding.

10. Find out you have ability that you didn’t realize was there.

I’ve added several additional weekend By Hand and Eye workshops to my schedule in 2015. Think about signing up and joining me for two days of challenging fun.

“NEW! July  11 – 12, 2015  Hudson Ohio,     R. Grell Fine Woodworking Workshops

August 8 – 9 Warren Maine, Lie-Nielsen Toolworks

A few folks have asked about the Lie-Nielsen workshop. It’s listed as “build a spice rack design class”. We are building a small rack as a way to put the design principles into practice. If you want to build a rack for your chisels, whiskey flasks, or kazoos – that’s fine also. It’s more about the design skills than any specific project.

Oct 17 – 18, Franklin IN, Marc Adams 

“NEW! Nov 7 – 8, 2015  Hudson Ohio,     R. Grell Fine Woodworking Workshops

 

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Awesome carved bowls

Lead option 2

Last year I had the pleasure of spending time with Dave Fisher in his workshop. It’s a feeble attempt to try to explain his work with this photo. You only get  this one static look that doesn’t capture the sparkle of sunlight bouncing off the curved forms or the messages only your hands can read.  Dave recently started a blog (Link) about his craft journey. Regardless of your interest in carved wooden bowls, he has a wealth of hard won knowledge about design, especially about incorporating curves in a design. He’s someone I pay close attention to. I must warn you though. After I spent a day in Dave’s shop I came away with more questions than I went in with.

Just a note, I’ll be teaching a design workshop at Richard Grell’s in Hudson Ohio on the 26th & 27th of January and there are still a few spots available. Also, I’ll be in Phoenix in Feb at the Southwest School of Woodworking. Still have a few open spots in that design workshop also. Hope to see you there.

 

George R. Walker

 

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What can you gain from a Design Workshop?

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Design workshops are a horse of a different color. The focus isn’t on a single project, but instead on every project you build going forward. OK – if you must have a clear idea of a project before signing on, my design workshops project involves a bit of demolition, setting a foundation, erecting walls, staircases, installing windows, running miles of new wiring, and it all takes place inside your head. Oh, and we accomplish all of this with a pair of dividers, a stick, and a pencil.

Students run the gamut from beginning woodworkers, to professional carpenters, graphic designers, engineers, free thinking artistic spirits, to the average Joe who just wants to take his or her work to another level.

Some common themes resonate with all.  Everyone senses when a design looks right, but most can’t go much past just a vague feeling.  After a workshop, that inner sense is decidedly stronger and students can begin to pinpoint why a design works or fails. Much of this progress results from getting a firm grip on what you already know intuitively.

That simmering doubt surrounding proportions evaporates. Yet, this is not about recipes or formulas. Students get the opportunity play and experiment with proportions, much like learning how spices combine to create depth of flavor in a good chili.  This quickly leads to the ability to unpack proportions in the wild. Great buildings, furniture, and works of art reveal their secrets and become a practical source of inspiration.

Most notice a marked improvement in the designs coming off their pencil by day two, and the ability to execute and self critique takes a dramatic step forward. Treat yourself to a weekend in 2015 that will change every aspect of your woodworking by attending a By Hand & Eye Design Workshop. Here’s a list of dates and locations for the coming year.

January 24 – 25, 2015  Hudson Ohio,     R. Grell Fine Woodworking Workshops

February 20 -22  Phoenix, Southwest School of Woodworking

August 8 – 9 Warren Maine, Lie-Nielsen Toolworks

Oct 17 – 18, Franklin IN, Marc Adams 

 

George R. Walker

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Design Workshops Far and Near

By Hand & Eye Graphic

Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.

Daniel J. Boorst

 

Game changer! That’s the comment I hear most often during a “By Hand & Eye” workshop. Lights click on, gears start to mesh, and frustration and doubt gives way to confidence and big smiles. Folks who shied away from curves can’t wait to do some off road woodworking. I have one more workshop this year and 2015 is beginning to take shape. Consider signing up for an experience that will influence every aspect of your woodworking. This weekend I’ll be traveling down to The Woodworker’s Club in Rockville Maryland for a Saturday session with the Chesapeake SAPFM chapter and then a two day design workshop on Monday and Tuesday.  There’s still a few spots available for the two day. 2015 workshop dates are firmed up but not yet open for enrollment. I’ll post when signups begin, but for now you can mark your calendar.

2014

  • Saturday Nov 1st Rockville Maryland – Presenting to the Chesapeake Chapter of SAPFM, The Woodworkers Club
  • By Hand & Eye Workshop, Nov 3-4 (Monday and Tuesday) The Woodworkers Club, Rockville Maryland. Sign UP

2015

  • By Hand & Eye Workshop, Jan 24th- 25th, R. Grell Fine Woodworking Workshops, Hudson Ohio. Details coming soon.
  • By Hand & Eye Workshop, Feb 13-15th, Southwest Center for Craftsmanship, Pheonix AR. Details coming soon. 
  • Design presentation, March 28th-29th, Northeast Woodworkers Association Showcase, Sarratoga Springs, NY. Details coming Soon.
  • By Hand & Eye Workshop, Oct 17th-18th, Marc Adams School of Woodworking. Details coming soon.

George R. Walker

 

 

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Break the curse of the blank sheet of paper

That blank sheet of emptiness taunts our self doubt.

That blank sheet of emptiness taunts our self doubt.

“Imagination is the highest kite one can fly”.

Lauren Bacall

 

I remember a time when a blank sheet of paper had the power to chase away every creative thought. It’s a mind trick. It seemed like a mirror reflecting dead air and silence in my head, with not a whiff or a hint of an idea floating off in the distance.  I call it a trick, because if we could ever behold what our imagination is capable of, we would fall down in awe. Imagination is the thing that get’s you wide awake at 3:30 am rooting around the workshop making a racket and having a great time of it. But we seldom tap it in our daily routine, so a little thing like the emptiness of a sheet of paper becomes a wall too high to breach.

Cooking up an idea and letting it stew.

Cooking up an idea and letting it stew.

 

 

I said “remember” because now it’s my privilege and joy to guide many woodworkers past that stumbling block. That was brought home to me the last few weeks teaching a series of design workshops for the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers and at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking. Over and over came the words, “This is awesome! I don’t have to get stuck anymore staring at that blank sheet of paper” , or “This is 1000% better, I can get off square one and get the juices and ideas flowing”.

 

Sure – the first drawings were shaky dead ends and mud pits. And yes, the trash cans overflowed with crumpled paper and the maintenance guy had to vacuum up a bushel of eraser dust. But ideas flowed, designs took shape,  and those designs improved quickly. Best of all, woodworkers who doubted they would ever break free from the blank page came in sleepy eyed on day two, after staying up till 3:30 am.

I’m not sure who was more pleased. Forty six fired up workshop attendees, or Jim Tolpin and myself who had the honor of witnessing it.

 

 

George R. Walker

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Top Ten Reasons

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Here are the Top Ten Reasons for signing up for the Foundations of Design workshop I’m teaching at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking the week of March 17th – 21st. 

10. You’ll learn proportions as a second language.

9. It will transform the way you see furniture. 

8. Port Townsend is a destination in itself, picturesque with great restaurants. 

7. Be inspired and jazz your passion for furniture building.

6. Learn the truth about mixing plaids and stripes – can it really work?

5. Going forward your furniture will be designated BFD (not what you think – Before Foundations of Design) and AFD (After Foundations of Design). 

4. You’ll walk away with the beginnings of a design portfolio you can build on.

3. Because Jim Tolpin makes great cookies.

2. Because design is rewarding, challenging, surprising, risky, and fun.

1. It’s January for Pete’s sake, treat yourself to something fun. 

George R. Walker

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