Friday, November 19, 2010

Butterflies Are For Everyone

The greatest gift I can receive from teaching is experiencing the diversity, creativity and imagination of the people who are "students" I use the traditional term "teacher" and "student" which schools have always used to represent who is giving and who is receiving, but I know that I am not alone in my profession when I confess that I am learning more from my students then they are from me.

Sure, they are taught the methods and techniques, the tools and materials, the history of the trade, and how it has always been done in different countries. But, time marches on. New workers have new ideas and new twists on the formula. History evolves constantly. Each time I talk with a new student, I learn something from them which makes me realize that we are both playing part of this evolution.

I have had students who wanted to make clothes with marquetry. Students who wanted to use materials which I would never consider appropriate, but which created discussion that launched new ideas for thought. Students who found creative ways to change the process.

Fortunately, I am open to new ideas (as long as they are for other people). Personally, I have found my style and my reputation is secure. But I realize that my style is not for everyone, and I always encourage each person to find their own "voice."

One of the graduates of the American School of French Marquetry is Karen Kaminiski. She has a delightful fascination with butterflies. I share this interest, since one of my early tables is the Butterfly Table, which I talked about on this blog months ago. However, when I make a butterfly it is in veneer and set into a design which is glued onto a piece of furniture.

Karen had other ideas. First, she decided to make her own material, since veneers are thin these days, and thick veneers are expensive and hard to find. She uses Old Brown Glue to make thin veneer "plywood" by pressing layers of veneer together. In this way she could make her own material which was strong and decorative, at a very cheap price.

Then she used the piece by piece method she learned in Stage II to cut out butterfly patterns and the separate pieces which she then fitted into the cavities of the wings. Then she cut out trees which would hold these butterflies.

Each time she would create a new piece, she would show up at the school and give it to me. Each time I would encourage her to sell them, or let me buy them. Each time she refused.

She has given them away to all her friends as gifts. Her beautiful and unique butterflies are now fluttering around in rooms all across the country. What a wonderful gift.

Thank you, Karen, for the gift of a new idea.

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