I recently delivered and installed a project that has occupied most of my attention and virtually all of my floor space for many months. Six Around One is a 6’ x 7’ interior sliding door I made to see if the intricate parquetry patterns I have been exploring would scale up to cover a huge surface, and as somewhat a of self-inflicted endurance test. It was late February when I set about the work of manually slicing around 4,000 5/8” wide x 6” long strips of butternut veneer, then burning the tip of each one in hot sand, then fastidiously taping them together into diamonds, then hexagons, then groups of hexagons. It’s just the sort of work that a romantic craft appreciator would effuse as “meditative”, and it was, in the moments when I would bring some presence of attention to those peaceful, repetitive actions. Of course, the reality is that most of the time I was staving off boredom or neurotic obsession with an armament of tricks and rewards—“just stick it out through one more Fresh Air podcast and then you can eat the last three chocolate covered biscotti.”
One thing, however, that brought some fun and novelty to these otherwise monotonous days was that my friend Jesse had taken it upon himself to produce a short film about the making of the door. Jesse works for a documentary film company just a few blocks from my studio and often comes over for an afternoon coffee. When I told him about my plans for this project he decided to start bringing a camera over and filming bits of the process, thinking it was strange enough to document. I obviously could not have been more thrilled than to have a professional filmmaker offering to document my process for the price of a reheated cup of coffee and a chocolate biscotti (if there were any left).
Jesse and I have been friends since childhood, and one of our main activities as kids was to make gratuitously gory live action and animated short films, which later progressed into a fairly serious interest in claymation that we pursued into our early 20’s. For this reason, having Jesse in my studio filming me at work was actually a familiar and stress-free process. Originally, we both thought this would be more of a typical “how it’s made” video with an explanatory narration over footage of me at work, but after one session of filming, it was clear that there was something in the austerely dim environment, and the way the small sounds of my work cut through the cave-like silence of my basement studio that warranted a different approach. Jesse decided to home in on the strange, percussive soundtrack of my endlessly repetitive actions—the slicing of veneer, the peeling of tape.
Jesse brought as much craftsmanship to the video and sound editing as I did to the door, and I’m so glad that both these projects are now complete and out there in the world. You can see more of Jesse’s films on his website or Vimeo page, and you can see more images of the finished door by clicking here.