Sunday, September 26, 2010

... A Boatbuilder is a Sculptor

We found tucked away a newspaper clipping from 1971 written by Joe Garland, a great author and historian who can also turn a newspaper story into a million gems of language strung together. The clipping we found is his lively review of a recently published book at the time called the "Building of a Wooden Ship" published by Dana Story with the photos of John M. Clayton who was a retired advertising man who so admired the shipbuilding in Essex that he photographed the craftsmen and their products for 30 years. Anyway, the collaboration resulted in a book - and in his review Joe offers some insight which still rings true today. He writes in 1971 "Imagine being handed a half-model or a table of offsets and converting it with nothing but what you have upstairs, your bare fists, and a few tools into a 120-foot thing of life, true to the last quarter inch! Not to run down house carpentering or cabinetwork, which I've had a crack at too. But framing a house and framing a vessel - well, there's no compare. A boat's all bends and scarphs, futtocks, knees, hollows, twists and queer places, while a building's plumb, level or proper angled - up and down, straight across or at a predictable slant. The difference is movement. The hull of a boat is meant to slide through the water with the least of commotion while a house is supposed to stay put. A boat builder is a sculptor. He doesn't think in planes, in walls and floors; he works in the third dimention; he molds wood to water, and makes the rest fit."

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