Farming didn't use to be the cool thing it is today. in 2001, when my wife put off going to college to pursue farming up on the coast of Maine, her parent's peers said oh what a shame, what a waste of a wonderful intellect. Farming was not cool.
Then Barbara Kingsolver wrote Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and Michael Pollan wrote the Omnivore's Dilemma, and overnight, it seemed, farming was very cool. The farm we worked on together shortly after moving back to Massachusetts was actually in Barbara Kingsolver's book, which had just come out, and we found ourselves on the edge of a sea-change in American culture. That first summer at the farmer's market, someone came up to us and said "You farmer's are like the new rock stars!" No joke. A lot had changed in six years.
Nowadays, farming is considered a legitimately awesome way of contributing to a better future. It is considered hard, noble work. It probably helps if you have tattoos. It helps if you have a cute baby (although believe me, it doesn't). Or at least a photogenic dog.
I have a dream for spooncarving, or greenwoodworking, or sloyd, or whatever you want to call it. I have a dream that it will undergo the same sea change in perception. When I started carving, it was weird. People couldn't imagine that there was a market for this, in the same way that people couldn't understand that there might be a market for winter greens cut fresh from a greenhouse.
In the last four years, there has started to be a growing acceptance of spooncarving as a normal activity, something like knitting, a hobby, a diversion, a way to connect with your hands.
I'm speaking of something deeper.
I have a dream that one day, sloyd will be a deeply understood and respected way of understanding our humanity. People will learn how to carve in the way that they learn how to drive a car, as just a normal part of growing up. Everyone will have a basic understanding of how it works, much as we have a basic understanding of gardening, even if we don't do it.
I have a dream that spooncarving will become cool to everyone, not just those that are practicing it. People will find out what I do and say that's amazing, instead of giving me puzzled looks or laughing. People will dream of growing up to be a spooncarver.
I have a dream that greenwoodworking will become inextricably tied with the idea of forest stewardship, that people will understand that caring for a landscape and resource comes from using it, interacting with it. Spooncarvers and greenwoodworkers will unite to promote the health and continuance of forests around the world, and tie the importance of their work to the quality of the very air we breathe and the web of ecosystems that support all life on earth.
None of this will make spooncarving particularly lucrative, or easier to make a living at. It is still tough to be a farmer. That hasn't changed.
But a change is coming. I can feel it. I can see it in the varied faces of all the people who come for lessons. Old, young, men, women, rich and poor: I have taught them all. I can see it in the identities of the people who buy blanks from me. People of all ethnicities, living in all different types of communities, in inner cities, suburbs and rural areas; people of all backgrounds and temperaments. They are finding in spooncarving something that has been mostly lost in our modern culture: a connection to the most humble, everyday objects of our lives. They are learning to use their hands. They are learning to value and understand trees. They are learning the satisfaction of making something, from start to finish, themselves.
I have a dream that spooncarvers will be the new rock stars. Each of us, in our own local communities, valued for what we represent about humanity. Something ancient. Something hopeful.
I just read an excellent free ebook about using Instagram written by @localmilk, one of those livestyle feeds that has a huge following and that I'm usually skeptical about. Nevertheless, the ebook WAS free, so I read it. And would you know it, it made me do a lot of thinking about how I am using Instagram, and how I can use it better.
First, let me say that I feel like I am doing many things right. I have become a decent photographer with my Android phone, I have a mix of content, I use all the features, and I am thoughtful about my captions and hashtag use.
That said, there are definitely things I could improve, if I step back and remember that the point of Instagram, for me, is largely sharing what I do in a way that is empowering and engendering community. My use of Instagram is a mix of personal (the stuff I want to remember when I look back at my feed in a year or two) and outward facing (the stuff I share that brings value to you and gives you a sense of what I do and what's going on). These two are in constant tension. Too much personal and I would rightly expect many viewers to jump ship, reducing my reach. Too much outward facing and I lose the thing that is most valuable to me in the future, those priceless moments that I wouldn't capture otherwise.
I think I most often err on the side of sharing too much. This is both in terms of too personal (although we do have boundaries around what and how much I share of our kids and family in general), and also in terms of volume.
One thing I hadn't thought of before that the book brought up was that a long, thoughtful caption need not flow directly from the image. In other words, the image gets them through the door, and then you can say whatever you want. You don't need to photograph something to talk about it, and you don't need to talk about something you photograph. This has been my sticking point for stories, in that I sometimes feel like I want the story to be a post because I have something to say.
Ultimately, I need to have some sort of discipline to when I post pictures, because I often post as I go throughout the day, capturing and sharing the best I have at hand because I don't know what the rest of the day will bring. Sometimes a lot, sometimes almost nothing, image-wise. While posting in the moment feels intuitive to me, like I'm sharing in real time, the truth is it hardly matters. What matters more is whether I am being as thoughtful and helpful as I can be with my post. Often the answer is no, I'm just sharing to keep up the discipline of it.
Especially as I start carving more, posting images of every single spoon I carve has gotten to be too much. It used to be a good fit to do that, but now I will carve three, four, five, six spoons in a day, and so it is time to be more thoughtful about things. With the advent of Spoonesaurus Magazine and my book coming out in the six months or so, things will only get more full. So it is appropriate to step back and evaluate if I could have more impact by doing less, but better.
Now, I balk at the idea of doing things just to gain more followers. That feels very Machievellian and I don't believe that numbers compare from one person to the next. But I do see growth in the number of followers as proof that I am doing a good job, in the sense of putting my best foot forward and making the most of the opportunities I have created. And while I don't believe in growth for growth's sake, I do think I have something valuable to share, and I have a fire in my belly to pursue this path as a means of supporting my family. There will never be an end to this path so long as I am alive, in that I will always be doing the next thing, promoting the next move. The question is always, where do I go from here?
So here are some changes you can expect from me going forward with Instagram: I plan to post less, maybe two posts a day, and to use stories more. I plan to continue doing live streams, but maybe promoting them better in advance, and I hope to have a a time of day, probably late afternoon, when I review pictures taken during the day and make a thoughtful decision about what image would be best suited to the grid at that time. Posts will provide the broad context, while stories will continue to give you an immediacy to my day and work.
Please know that I worry that this will feel alienating to some of you. Maybe it won't, and I'm worrying about nothing. But I value the relationships I have built with each of you and don't want to lose the connections that posts seem to form better than stories. Hopefully, I can find a new normal where I am able to be strategic but still approachable. As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.