Woodworking and Spirituality

While woodworking has always been part of my life, it became a central activity only ten years ago. Teaching writing, raising a family, and engaging in community activities left little time or money for this passion.

As the children left college I was able to start buying tools and machinery so that by 2000 I could make the communion table I have described elsewhere. I now spend about half my time in my shop working with wood from my own and nearby land — primarily walnut, cherry, maple, and ash.

Custom communion table with wood and mosaic inlays
Amick Table

In some ways this work is a kind of practical meditation on our relation with the earth. Over the past few years I have begun keeping notes, books, pictures, and reflections on the spirit of woodworking. John DeGruchy, my woodworking friend in South Africa, and I have had many talks on this subject.

I will be posting emerging thoughts and themes on woodworking and spirituality here. I encourage you to comment on this theme as this project emerges.

4 thoughts on “Woodworking and Spirituality”

  1. My late father was a woodworker and experimental physicist. I’m looking for a poem about the spirituality of woodworking and related hobbies to read at his memorial service which we are now in the process of planning. The service is to be held on Oct. 17, 2009. Would you have any suggestions?

  2. Bill,
    Glad I’ve finally found your blog-site. I’ll stay in touch this way, and hope to keep up with all your various creative “doings”! We’re delighted you’ll be coming to give a talk, reading, and book-signing at Andover Newton. Keep at it!

  3. Great to hear form you, Jyoti, on this point. At this point, as I said, I am collecting materials — both historical and contemporary — from people who are interested in this area. Anything you or Roshan or Lavanya have created that bears on this interest would be of interest to me. I have an earlier piece entitled “With the Grain” which is on our website, http://www.WisdomsTable.net, in the section on Woodworking that might interest you. In terms of people who have influenced me George Nakashima, James Krenov, and Ross Laird have been especially helpful.
    I am continuing to work in wood myself, especially with round tables of various kinds, which are displayed on the same website.
    Please stay in touch as you explore this area.

  4. This theme of the spirituality underlying a craft like woodwork especially interests me. We now have two workshops here, one run by my daughter Lavanya,and her husband Gautham, for wood work activities, which also extends into their teaching related to the “wisdom of the hands”, involving young people from slums in Bangalore. Then we also have a ceramic studio, started by my son Roshan, which has also extended to his work with teachers from “ashram schools” in the Nilgiri district, where children from tribal and Lambani (gypsy) communities receive a kind of non formal education. Roshan has been working on what he calls “earth art” which combines his ceramic skills, with an interest in working with plants in the garden, and creating what he calls meditation gardens, especially with children in Jane’s Sita School. Together we have run courses in “materials as metaphors”, for students in design and technology. I would be interested to know more about your own approaches to the spirituality of working with materials like wood.

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