If there's one thing I've realized as I progress as a spooncarver, it's that I do many things differently than other spooncarvers. Not just differently, but in many cases actually the opposite of how most of the field does things. This used to bother me, perplex me, worry me, until I realized it's my secret weapon (not so secret now, though).
The reason that doing things the opposite is a secret weapon is because of two things. The first is that when it comes to process, doing things differently leads to new discoveries, new ways of doing things, gains in efficiency. I carve the crank into my spoon blanks first thing, and that means I can use smaller, weirder pieces of wood with a high rate of success, for reasons that are too nuanced to go into here. I use just one hook knife when many others use several, and gain efficiencies, skill and benefits from doing so. I vary my rim thickness instead of trying to keep it consistent, and this makes for better spoons and an easier carve.
I could go on. The point is, I evolve as a craftsman, making developments that continuously take me away from what the canon describes. But it is precisely BECAUSE it takes me away from this conventional wisdom that I find unexpected benefits.
The second reason doing the opposite is a secret weapon is because when it comes to building a business, it is what separates us from everyone else that defines us. What makes you different is what people remember about you.
So while much of the spooncarving scene gets pulled into making hewn bowls, or dishes on the lathe, or cuttingboards (depending on which subgenre you belong to), I stick with carving spoons. Just spoons. There aren't that many of us. You get really good at things when you stay focused.
So while many spooncarvers make and teach, I branch out into publishing a magazine and start a podcast. Who cares if these don't make me money yet? It's what you do that is different that defines you.
There was a day about a month ago when my apprentice Dano was over, and he kept asking me questions about why I did this and why I did that. It drove home to me just how much I do that is different or even the opposite of how most spooncarvers operate, on every level.
Now, there is plenty of room in the category of "opposite" to do something that is dumb, or ugly, or just plain dangerous. But there is also soooo much room for things that are exciting and efficient and smart and safer, too.
And the best way to find the opposite? Understand what people are doing and ask yourself how you would improve that.
Now go do that.
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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.