Choices. And a Desk…

writing desk

Conceptual drawing by the author

bruce talbert chair

Period furniture. A Bruce Talbert design.


How simple. As I go towards my shop, I am wondering about the next steps that will assist in the completion of the current project that I am working on. It is not about planning. The planning stage has been processed a while ago, though there are parts of the planning that were not put into place…purposely. Why?

You see, somehow I have discovered that I do not know everything! Go ahead and laugh…because it is laughable how we actually think about things isn’t it? What a relief not to have to know everything or for matter control everything and every outcome! And because I do not know everything, there is left a certain range of, let’s just say, respect and deference to that which is not yet known. Its not that it will not be known, but only when I am given to know it. I think that sounds a bit honky in writing, but it is true.


The thing is, it is about choices. Well, kind of. It actually has more to do with choosing to not make certain choices and choosing to make a choice about those things that I know to make a choice about. Is that a clear way of stating it? Ha!

R- Factor-20

Some ideas moved forward in practical application from a concept drawing

If I go into the shop with the idea that my advance planning is all there is to know about the project at hand, then it seems that when I get to a point of pressure where things are not working out as I thought it would, I am stuck with only the solution that came to me from a point in the past. It has to go this way or it will not be as I thought it would be and that is not good. Right? Well is this not that same way and idea that the world at large uses and promulgates? Does it make sense? How can I solve a certain current situation with this current particular set of factors by looking into the past and attempting to bring forward a previously thought solution and fit that into this work now? That is in some respect attempting to do time traveling, and backwards at that! It is not that the past is invalid, it is that what is current is what has meaning at this point of nexus. That is, Now is a point of consideration.

R- Factor-24


Some drawer details. The handle was a surprise solution.

So really how do we see what solutions are available Now without attempting to go back in time and arbitrarily pull an answer out of the past? My sense is that one possible way of finding a real answer to a real problem is to be in a real place. Well sounds logical does it not? Trouble is, we have gotten so far away from what is our real place, that place called Reality, that to find the place of true Reality for ourselves, there seems to be a bit of work there to do. Or maybe that is “un-work”? I suppose that the first step would be to begin to realize that Reality is a place that needs nothing to attain. It is. Just as sure as the Sun shines. We might also begin to realize that we are not in control of Reality, though we are definitely a part of Reality.


A cutoff piece from the desk glue up reflects the dual play of colors of the desk top.

black mt furniture IMG_9786

Installed drawer is built on an angle but slides straight in and out.


You know, I do not think that any of us truly and really mind that there are Seasons and Cycles of timing to Nature. When Winter comes, we may not be personally pleased with the cold weather in some regions, yet we fully understand that Nature has its intention focused on something it is doing here and now for another Cycle to appear and in due time it does appear. We do not need to imagine that. We trust to Nature’s processes in that way. Why? Because it always works.

Now as I mentioned a bit earlier, part of the planning that seems to need to take place is right here and now: the situation is at hand and answers are becoming available that were not available yesterday. We all know that this is true in the same way that Nature provides for other life forms in cycles and rhythms. The funny part of this world is that we generally think we need to make up some kind of way to process our creations or that Nature works for those things out there but has no bearing on our works here, within us. Amazing. A question might be asked as to what degree are we allowing that or not allowing that to be the Reality for ourselves? Is Nature’s Reality clearly present and working?

As time moves forward things change, so obvious you say? Would it be so strange to think that we actually trust to that? That without change we would cease to exist, as well as the whole Universe. One question that seems to beg to be asked as to in what direction is it changing? Get out the crystal ball? Not. A point that is obscured is that Nature leaves notes as to how things are moving in a certain direction and it always works within a certain process. Nice!  That means to the degree that we are interested in the Actuality and Reality of the direction of True Change, we have a format that can be applied in a beginning of understanding the movement. Who would have known? An end to chaos? How large of a world do we want to live in?


How special and beautiful is it to be present for a wonderful Sunrise on a new day? The Sun and Moon and all the planets and stars work day and night, and though we have no control, the picturesque quietude brings us to a sense of wonder and appreciation. The air and water on this planet is and remains always in a constant flux, changing even in its form of presentation to us, allowing the richness of the variation of Life to be experienced because of the Presence of its Nature. To smell, to taste, to hear, to see the mountains, the ocean and rivers and feel the Peacefulness underlying the Reality of Change is a beauty that touches the soul and calls for response.

Planet Earth.

Planet Earth.


If our planning in the past cannot in Reality be a complete picture now, it would seem that remaining flexible on that plan would be a good idea! Parts of that plan of course will work now. There are parts that actually need to be let go. Which is which? Ahh, nice for you say, but what a condition for a bunch of chaos in my life and everything around me!


Well, I wonder about that. It seems that to the degree that we stop attempting to fit the past decisions into the present situation there is a release of false tension or chaos as it might be known and some amount of freshness and reasonableness starts to pervade the current situations that we have in front of us. Wow. I would like more of that.

IMG_0912  So as I go into the shop, I do have a plan, and I am focused on attaining a result. This is not a state of complacency nor wishful thinking. Though unlike before, it appears that I now go to see what choices are available today to work towards that result, and to the degree that I am willing to let these things be changeable and flexible, then my work is much more easier and truly much more rewarding.


maple cherry desk web

Finished desk out of Hard Rock maple, Wild Cherry wood. Drawer bottom is made from aromatic Cedarwood.


Let’s go to work and see what the Day brings!

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When I am contemplating about new things in the shop, generally speaking, my ideas start forming around the everyday kind of needs anyone might would like to have or use. Mundane? Well maybe, yet given the opportunity, what are the possibilities of a table design, for instance?

One could imagine a nice stand and a flat top…and…wait…right there we have begun to limit our design that may be able to come to form! While it is true that we may want to elevate something to an eating height when sitting down, who said the surface had to be flat? One surface? Part of a surface? Does it have to be the whole surface. What are we going to use it for? How will we use it?

In other words, why not make an agreement in design, to ask questions? Asking questions (or not asking questions) reveals what, how, and why we might be looking for something to come into a form and how that might look at this point in time. We all enjoy something of a design surprise to simple things, though it seems that when one attempts to design in a twist at the beginning of the cycle, all too often it appears in a somewhat contrived manner.

asian style jewelry box

A Clean and Sleek Design. Copyright Black Mountain Furniture


The thing that comes to my mind is that mostly we ask very good questions before we begin to design something, and then being fairly confident that we know what we are doing, proceed into the other phases of building without hardly another question. It was already thought out, right?

If we were to allow the process of discovering each step of the way of designing, say from a point where there is an idea, to the actual form, the direction of each step can lead with a question mark. In one sense, one is headed in a certain direction with a real plan yet on the other, one is sensing a sort of nebulous calm in front of the process. Almost as if one were waiting for the next step to be revealed rather than marched through. The music one hears is definitely different in that way.


Core of Wild Cherry tree damaged by insects and water


Split along the fault line of the wood.

This would mean that as one part of the foundation of a form is being made, the next part which has been designed and thought through still has some room to shift in form before it is integrated with the next part. The idea and the process being that one is willing to allow something to form in a fashion that is more organic than just following out a preconceived format. In this manner, if one is willing to be open to new ideas as a project moves through a process, then surprises can be available as we work, opening the possibilities of giving a uniqueness to the form, adding interest, or just doing something that produces a better result than before. How exciting!


Insects and water damage. What is a woodworker to do?

Of course, the trade-off that also comes into the picture is time. How do we view time? Are we driven to produce all that we do through the lens of “I only have this much time?”. Believe me, I am not refuting the aspect that there is the reality of cycles of time that are needed to produce things. Though what I am alluding to is that within a real cycle of required effort, there is still time to relax with the process of Achievement.

If we subscribe to the idea that we are willing not to fight with our time to do this or that, but rather know that there is a value in the things that we do, that we think, and that we touch, then why not be a bit more conscious of how we do these things? In real time. That is, as we work. That is the time that asking questions has value. To ask questions before is to answer the larger thoughts about the process and the form, and asking questions as the process is moving is to get more specific ideas and thoughts about what is able to be done at this point. Some ideas are just not available before hand, yet if one is thoughtfully present, there seems to be new ideas about things all the time.


Cutting dovetails on the miniature…


Looks like they might work!

By beginning to work in this fashion, one does not realize at first is that there is a lot more leeway than we previously thought about designing something. That the process of design can be and is a process! Would it not be a relief to know that one did not have to know all the details of a project before one started? That the process can move ahead after the planning stage with a calm sense of looking for more specific unique answers to the next stages as we move along?

Well, I find that it is a relief and a benefit that as I am working, a process of discovery moves through my work with me, and I actually enjoy an element of expection for certain details of the next phases to begin to show themselves as the cycle of time works to completion for each project. I do spend a judicious amount of time planning what it is I am to accomplish, though as we know that is only the first phase of any project. Then once the planning is done, the next phase of adventure can begin.


A different direction than originally planned after realizing a new opportunity.


It becomes a real treat to work in this fashion and begin to realize that there is much more than one thought to the idea of Designing something into a form.

syncopation-7 syncopation-6

Have you had any experiences where you got a super answer for a design question as you were working? Like you were thinking it was going to go together in one way, yet in real time, a new idea formed in your mind, something that really worked?


Slabs cut straight off the top of the board in the order they came off.


Dovetailed box and a nice handle designed by “M” (Mother nature that is).


Slabs reflect the flaws associated with original billet.


Drawer slides nicely.


Finished product.

Ha! There you go. Would enjoy hearing your experiences!

Let’s go to shop and see what is next! Have a fun day.

(All pictures are property of the author)

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Missed Takes On Design

I have the opportunity and privilege in the wood shop, of working, not so much to specific dimensions, but more often about proportions and relationships. We know that designing is a process of allowing certain ideas to take a form.. What we also know is that the development of a form from an idea can change from the beginning of the process, and shift in a new direction or include new ideas as the form is being shaped.


This organic method of working a form necessarily has need for one to work without judging it good or bad in any state of the process. It is about whether the form coming into a shape is fulfilling the criteria of the design need. Just saying, that is a pretty wide open statement. Fulfilling a design need can be done in many ways.


My point is that to move from stage to stage organically, from time to time, the need is to reconcile and account for the form with the design criteria. At these points one has need to letting go of judgement about the form and to assess how it is moving toward the fulfillment of the plan. Are the design criteria being met in light of what is in front of me now? All the aspirations and efforts made are nothing unless this is the fact. With this kind of questioning the need for the release of any hold on the ideas and concepts of the past have to be let go, so that we may stand at a point of a new beginning in front of it. If the return of that question, or the answer to that question is yes, then obviously we would move to build upon the form as is at this point.


If the return answer brings us a no, or a maybe, then we have new opportunities to review and reflect on the existing form as to whether or not it can be shifted in a new direction. Depending on the severity of the missed take on direction, we might need to back up in the design process refocusing our missed take or possibly even starting over. One works with great interest to bring the right elements together so that the form will satisfy the need. To that end then, starting again or removing the elements that are not working in one sense, actually does not mean anything in and of itself, though working in an atmosphere of acceptance of the method, or the attitude with which one works, becomes very important.


One reason to stay focused on an attitude of shall we say, Creative Achievement is that one can get bogged down with judgements of the past efforts in attempting to accomplish a design idea. This works in both directions of judging the form, that is good or bad. If one is judging a certain form in an unfinished stage, then one seems to be hindered in moving forward in the best possible design solutions. The mind can become somewhat cluttered with past ideas that may have been limiting or successes that shroud the new form in an old way, again limiting the accomplishment. If the idea is to continue the project to completion of the design need, it would be of great concern to bring it to fruition with the best solution possible; that is at this time, with these specific materials and the knowledge that is available to us now. 


In this way, the essence of backing up or moving foward has an air or sense of equanimity about it. The attitude of having a calm sense in dealing with the necessity of pressure in Creative Achievement centers around a certain state of happiness to be in a process ourselves! And knowing that we are working on and with an organic process that relates to us. One might even call the process of changing a form a joy, because it is a process that is ever moving. And truthfully the forms, when brought to completion in this way, express that level of feeling.

For as we all know, certain forms we experience can be a joy to touch and interact with. Is that not why we would bring our own efforts to bear?

Well maybe this is enough contemplations for the day! Let’s go complete something in the shop…there seem to be many ideas waiting to come to form. What is your experience like?  I would enjoy hearing from you.

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How to Build a Pyramid and Other Phenomenal Things…

Pyramids of Giza

Hahaha! Finally the truth of how to build a Pyramid!

I was in the shop the other day, wondering about a design situation that I had, thinking about different ways to approach the solution. The thing is, there are seemingly at first, a myriad of ways to solve any design problem, any problem, until we are willing it would seem, to allow the specific answer to appear.

Of course, that is an interesting statement! A specific answer to a design situation? Is there is one answer that will satisfy all the requirements? We know that that is true. The question always seems to be, how to get to that specific answer.

The approach that we normally take seems to be hit or miss, that is, take all the knowledge and experience that you have been given, put it into the processor, whirl it, stir it, jab it a few times, and presto there is the answer! So there we have one solution. Not bad, based on what we understand at this time and place. There seems to be a practicality to this approach and of course it mostly works.

But what if you want to build a pyramid? Something more than just a standard solution to a design question? And the fact is, simply put, that pyramids came into form to solve a design question. One reason we might realize why it is that the engineers and scientists have not really figured out how they were built is that the design question that was answered by the actual building of the pyramid has been obscured by time, myth, and intent. The question is: How could anyone build something greater in the past than what we are able to do with our knowledge and understanding of today? It hits hard upon the jaw of today’s world to contemplate that question if we are looking for rote answers. Rather than ask the right design questions, it appears that the world would rather attempt to stuff the truth into myths hoping that if enough mystery and time are applied, it will hide the reality.


Design solutions in form come as a result of fulfilling a need in a specific time and place. So that one might say, the solution for Edison’s light bulb was specific to that time and place, though now we are at a different crossroads with respect to lighting solutions and the questions are unique to this period of time, as are the solutions.

So the reality of finding a real solution to a design question has an aspect of utilizing those things at hand or what we know, and those things that are not yet at hand, or what we do not know. You might verbalize that as something that is missing. Something we do not know yet. Though if we allow ourselves the space, and an attitude of patient relaxing into the dark of the unknown, which is in front of us, you might say, trusting to what we do not know in this moment, a design solution is waiting to come into our consciousness for the design question at hand.


Though this sounds a bit airy, it is actually practical and effective. The word inspiration comes to mind surrounding this process, and it is a process. It is an approach to a way of working so that we move towards solutions that are not just ordinary or expected. A + B does not have to equal C. In fact it never does except on paper. And just saying if you are interested, you will never find the solution to the design question of pyramids using a straight line approach. Nor are we here to fulfill a world’s vision of straight line answers.

The essence of our given capacities can grow and are supposed to grow, continually. Yet how are we to do that? By going to school? By getting degrees in things that people have already figured out and now you and I both know so that we can spit back the answers? Did Edison, Einstein, Ptolemy, Newton (how many others?) go to school to do what they did? Or was there an understanding that moved them beyond the schooling of the day?

Claudius Ptolemy 16th Century

What are limitations? Can it be that the limitations that we are experiencing at this time are mostly non-existent? We tend to accept them as ceilings but actually if we will let them, are they not the source for our expansion, if we take an attitude that is non-judgmental about ourselves and our worlds? The limitations that we experience are based upon what we believe are real and to the degree that we give them weight they have a certain range of control on our lives. That is, until we move past one and let it go. The feeling of release and outer tension is beyond joy and moves one to a deeper connection to one’s own self and those about.

Well I would imagine that is enough contemplation at this time. I believe the shop is calling and its seems to be time to move in that direction: let’s see what solutions come today.


Would be great to hear from you and your experiences!

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Who Would Know?

What a time!


Working wood in the shop is like unto any relationship. In this specific and unique relationship the elements of connecting to the core of the substance of trees brings a refreshing newness in forms. And the conversations that can be experienced from the way trees grow in the ground, expanding, reaching out in organic agreement with the currents of atmosphere and through time are rewarding and fulfilling.


Trees obviously, are just one unique facet of a whole world of Design. Though definitely very special because we can see so many different principles that Nature is providing for us, even footsteps if we would hear and see them.

It would seem that form in Nature is just an offshoot of Her real Intention. She has plans. She (if you do not mind me using the feminine terminology) has purpose and intent. And of course, we are naturally a part of this Grand Drama that is taking place…even right now.

How interesting. How exciting to be part of something so Great that it goes beyond what one really thinks about this or that or how one is sooo important! The animals know. The insects know. The flora knows. The fish know. The birds know. And of course, the trees know.

rich plant stand_0019

Change is. Any tree will tell us that. But does a tree take offence to change? Hahaha! It knows. Therefore it remains in a place of stillness in the core of itself: how will it be now? It is not good or bad that limbs should break. It just is. Nice.

In today’s world where everything is expected to be available right now and we can shift Seasons, Cycles and the Rhythms of Nature to meet our expectations and imagination, it would seem pretty reticent of one to be patient and look to Nature to provide us with answers. Answers to everything we thought we did not know.  But unlike Google, we must be patient and listen for the answer in the cycle that it is presented to us. Answers have cycles also as we well know, for executing an answer in the wrong period just never seems to work out. The sooner we implement an answer the greater is its possibility to expand in an organic way.

If one were to take that stance upon the ground that one stands on, you might be considered an outcast for not jumping when the pressures of demand is presented to one. Or according to your belief’s, that might be an in-cast! Or part of the cast! At least a bohemian. Follow Nature? Be patient and listen to our own senses? Who knows?

camping pix 091

Time seems to reveal the Truth. Sometimes it is buried in seeds. And seeds need watering and the right timing of other elements to grow. Simple? Is there anything new that a myriad of other people have not said?

I believe that it has to do with the availability of what is known as common sense. Someone not long ago asked, what happened to it? That is the thing about common sense. Common sense describes a state of oneness with the informational analysis of one’s body through all it’s sensors to the outer world without judging it, theorizing it, embellishing it nor in any other way attempting to manipulate the information, thus producing an atmosphere conducive to utilizing the information to hear and see what is moving on the level of what is happening right now. To the degree that we understand this kind of experience it is said that we have common sense. Common sense begets an intuitive sense sometimes called a sixth sense. I would suggest that there are actually seven senses. Can we hear or see why it is not too common anymore?

I think this is why many people can hear the same things in a relatively same time period. Like trees, we are all connected to the atmosphere. How well are we attuned to that or do we have our agendas so laid out that it makes no difference which way the weather blows?

Let’s go to the shop and work some wood. Too fun!

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