Seeing Is Believing

I made some very sweet eagle-headed canes in the nineties. At one show, I sold the very best one to someone who was sightless. The details that people without visual impairment take for granted this young woman was able to take in by using her hands. I was immensely pleased, not at the sale, but to have my work so appreciated. The only other people who felt my work were children. I was continually telling parents that it was OK for kids to handle the carving. That is one of the beautiful things about carving wood- its tactile nature. I find myself hoping that people don’t just stop when they see my carving, but also touch it.
There are some things that people do automatically start stroking: spoons. I work very hard to avoid making an exact repeat. There are some lovely spoons out there that look handmade but are not. Take a look at the “family resemblance.” All the spoons and spatulas look graceful, smooth, and well designed, but there is very little individuality. Of course, I am not in the spoon business. I don’t have to turn out thousands a year to keep my enterprise solvent. I may make a few hundred if I’m doing shows. That quantity allows me to play around. I am looking for designs with excellent utility, well balanced, looks attractive, and feels nice.

To see and to feel are complementary senses. As a society, we tend to emphasize the visual at the cost of feel. That can be a mistake.
Boatbuilder Ralph Johnson drove this home to me years ago. We were planking a small boat. He asked me if the plank I had just finished shaping was fair. Based on my vision, I replied that it was. He just smiled and asked me to close my eyes and walk down the plank while I ran my thumb against the edge. As I progressed, I felt every rough bump, dip, and ding. In boatbuilders’ jargon, it was not genuinely fair.

Seeing may be believing, but feel will give you a less biased second opinion.

7 Replies to “Seeing Is Believing”

  1. I wonder if a lot of it is the fact that we are taught by our parents to ‘look, but don’t touch’, particularly at the store for example. Although I don’t hear it as much as I once did. Now, with the virus, touch has become really touchy.

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      1. Kids have it right though–they are very tactile, and brutally honest and non-judgemental and accepting of everyone, and then we, as a society, come along and corrupt them. It’s too bad, really. We have a lot to learn from them.

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  2. As I get older, my eyesight is not quite what it used to be. Two years ago I broke down and got some eyeglasses. The ophthalmologist said that my vision was perfect, other than for the fact that I couldn’t focus. It was more than a physical diagnosis, for when I finally donned the specs, I found my mind focused better as well. We have to rely more than what our eyes tell us though. I learned through someone I thought I knew that I didn’t necessarily have to look at something to diagnose a trouble. That in listening and by touch I could discern so much more, if I instead focused on those senses. It helped me realize how easily I believed the deception of my vision. Anyway, thank you for this. I love your stories.

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