Immediate and ordinary beauty

Sometime last year I subscribed to Christopher Schwarz’s newsletter, The American Peasant, and I’ve been gradually reading the archives in their entirety. If you’re into woodworking, you might know that Chris runs Lost Art Press which publishes some incredible books and videos on hand tool woodworking. Over the past year or so, I’ve read The Anarchist’s Tool Chest and The Anarchist’s Design Book. I’ve watched The Naked Woodworker, and I’m currently working through The Essential Woodworker by Robert Wearing.

I’ve slowly begun to assemble a small set of decent tools and have started working on a couple of small projects for our home—a pair of sawbenches, a proper Nicholson workbench, likely a coffee table after that.

As a relative newcomer to woodworking, I appreciate the unpretentiousness of Chris’ voice, and I’ve learned a lot from him and the crew at Lost Art Press. But what I really appreciate and find inspiring is his worldview and the ethical commitments that infuse his work. There’s something very punk rock about Chris’ insistence that everyone can and should learn the basic skills to build and maintain the essential stuff of their lives for themselves.

And then there’s nuggets like this:

[…] we are all capable of good. For me, the two most important things I can do are: Take care of others and create things that are beautiful. By “beauty,” I don’t mean the stuff in art museums, the books in our libraries or the soaring buildings in our cities. I mean the small (and big) things that we do every day.

Beauty can be a rude chair that is nice to sit in and draws your eye from the other side of the room. It can be a handplaned surface. A moulding that creates bands of light and dark. A song that is sung at the end of a day’s work. A meal that you make for your family.

All these things are temporary; some last only an instant. But these bits of immediate and ordinary beauty (what you see, taste, smell and feel) make a moment – perhaps the one you are in right now – better than moments without them.1

This is the kind of ethos that I want to guide my life and work. It’s a reminder that the small things we do every day matter. You’ll have to subscribe to Chris’ newsletter to read the rest, but I highly recommend it.