Finally! one more voice out there in the cyber wilderness counselling integrity, and just plain common sense in the face of all the hype about how to get seen and get your product sold.
His About me page sets the tone for the kind of straightforward approach you can expect from him:

Hi, I’m Jeffrey, and this is Pen vs. Paper, a blog about writing, work, media, technology, life, art, culture and anything else truly interesting.

This site is a labor of love. By that, I mean it’s not really for anyone. I’m not doing this to make money or impress people. I’m doing this because it makes me happy. This is my public journal. My open notebook. I share things here because I think they’re worth sharing. That’s really my only guiding principle.

On his blog penvspaper,  Jeffrey questions bloggers positioning themselves as experts and hyping up content just to get hits.  He writes:

The prevailing notion of ‘How to Use Social Media’ seems to be “the louder the better.”

For example: Position yourself as an expert! Advertise your Exclusive Private Coaching Program of Awesome! Learn these sneaky tricks to ensnare more subscribers! Write more how-to guides and top-10 lists! Find a Niche and a Message and promote, promote, promote! Louder, louder, LOUDER!

Oy. It’s like we’re becoming human infomercials.

Okay, truthfully? The problem isn’t the techniques. The problem is, when everyone’s shouting, it’s all just noise.

There’s nothing wrong with some healthy self-promotion, if that’s your cup of tea. There’s nothing wrong with writing how-tos or running an exclusive coaching program or designing your website to encourage more signups.

And there’s certainly nothing wrong with positioning yourself as an expert, as long as you happen to be, you know, an expert.

But where’s the substance?

Go visit his blog to read the rest, he’s got worthwhile things to say.

Completing the series of  quotes on the craft life from ‘A Cabinet Maker’s Notebook’:

I’ve never believed that a really good craftsman is intended for a tremendous public…the craftsman lives in a condition where the size of his public is almost in inverse proportion to the quality of his work…(or) the total content of the work that he does.

And he really hasn’t that much use for a hundred or two hundred people banging on his door, wanting things, because finally, this craftsman is the one who does the work himself, and gives people something very personal and therefore not accessible to everyone.

Liz Bennefeld, a fellow AWgrad (an artist’s support group made up of people who have followed the 12 week Artist’s Way program in the book by Julia Cameron) has written a superb post about the addage, ‘Do what you love and the money will follow’.  So many of us have been encouraged to follow our dreams with the assurance that if you only try hard enough and keep on, you will arrive at success on your own terms.

Liz’s post questions the wisdom in this without becoming cynical.

My husband and I were talking about this advice and he wisely said, it should be changed to ,’Love what you do and the money will follow’.
One more piece of Rende wisdom to write down in my notebook. Thanks dear.

James Krenov at work, please see below for photo credit

Photo comes from this site

Continuing quotes on the craft life from ‘A Cabinet Maker’s Notebook’:

The good thing is to develop your habits and discipline and get a flow in the work so that it all makes long-term sense. There is no way of making it easy though you can make some of it easier and most of it enjoyable by being friends with what you are doing. You learn more that way, and the work shows this. Which in turn helps to keep you going, without thinking about all the time and effort it takes: a large part of the battle is getting to the point where you no longer worry about the time and work involved.

Still, for some of us it is too much. In the long run we can’t do it. This is understandable.

And this is why, when we see a fine piece of cabinet-making, we should look closely, and think about what it means, and remember that it is not just pieces of wood put neatly together, but a measurable part of an honest craftsman’s life.

(James Krenov died at the age of 88 in 2009).

Continuing quotes on the craft life from ‘A Cabinet Maker’s Notebook’:

You stand there with your skill, patience, and something even more unique- and you feel alone. It is a critical point in your life; you are afraid, yet you want to go ahead and do it. Certainly the odds are against you. Most of the critics…, are concerned with …art trends, ‘forms’, marketing. Most of them wouldn’t recognize a low tone, subtle, and warm piece of wood if they saw it.

People will buy second and third hand imitations, the current overstatement, the by-the-roadside-charming. They don’t want your quiet, out-of-place message. They are not prepared for it because that sort of thing belies their whole way of living,

…most good craftsmen work by themselves doing all their own work. So if you are a loner, you and your work are different from most. Accept that, and be glad. Either you are the competitive, speculating sort, or you’re not. And if you aren’t, then turn this fact into an asset; it can be the greatest asset of all. Realizing it helps you to stop being afraid, and allows you to be proud of living with what you do best.

Stick to what you believe in; go into the work and listen. Forget about competition. Find a pace and a balance that make sense out of long hours.

Try to reach the level where there is no competitor except excellence itself.

Continuing quotes on the craft life from ‘A Cabinet Maker’s Notebook’:

There is a true need to create in a climate in which (fine work) can be done and appreciated.

Maybe this atmosphere of understanding will come…But until it does come, work. Even when you are worried, work. Don’t be pressured by originality..(the pressure of always having to create something new). It’s a losing battle. And so exhausting. Stay out of it.

It took me a long time to realize this and accept my unoriginal self. [Sarah’s note – he is too humble here, his works are beautiful and original]. Try to find the sort of people for whom there is another originality – that of the quiet object in unquiet times. It is rather ironic…We’re so uptight that relaxation is something new, especially with regard to things. So a piece in low key, where wood has its message and there is an idea and an inspiration, where someone has worked honestly and well but with humility too –  this is original.

Krenov Cabinet on stand

Continuing quotes on the craft life from ‘A Cabinet Maker’s Notebook’:

The best is by its very nature selective: why not accept it as such? This doesn’t make crafts as nostalgia or entertainment or therapy less justifiable. It’s simply that s a dedication, as the center of one’s life, craft is one thing- and as anything else it is a different and separate matter.

Both are needed. Between them we should have an enriching dialogue.
But force them together and you get gibberish.

Cabinet by James Krenov, photo by Jonathan Binzen

Click here for a slide show of James Krenov’s exquisite cabinetry.

Years ago, when Rende first bought ‘A Cabinet Maker’s Notebook’, I wrote down some passages of Krenov’s simple wisdom about living the life of a master craftsperson. His words are just as relevant some 20 years later and I’d like to share them with you across a couple of posts.

Working alone poses problems of discipline and aims, and you have to get on lifelong terms with your work and yourself. For most of us, in the beginning stages and perhaps always, it’s a condition of struggle and discovery and secret satisfactions.

Sometimes you are not making as much money as the plumber…, but you are alive with your work, and I think that one of the important points to keep you going is that you enjoy it-not hobby enjoyment or periodic enjoyment, but the enjoyment of being with it.

That, of course, means that you must save your energy, you must develop methods of working with wood that lead to a sort of harmony, a satsifaction that you are, with a minimum of effort, achieving the maximum of sensitivity. You are saying what you want to say, finally, and you’re doing it in a way that, despite all the sweat and hard work, gives you satisfaction.

This is the way you want to live.

Tiny books

May 11, 2011

The first 25 little books

I’m currently working on a surprise gift for a friend’s birthday. I’m making one little book for each year of their life so far. They have reached a venerable age, so there are quite a few to go. I love doing it though. It is meditative, you can pick it up anytime like knitting, and it is fun to see the stack growing. Each book has a cover and 4 pages and is sewn with one stitch.

I’ve dipped into my paper collection; it is heartening to have a destination for all those scraps of wrapping paper, hand decorated papers, bits of rice paper, remnants of discarded art, postage stamps, etc that I compulsively save.  The insides of the books are cut from magazines, mostly the text pages.

Below you can get an idea of the scale, they are actually about 15 millimeters square (around 5/8ths of an inch).

Little books workspace

Spoonful feature

May 4, 2011


Balloon by Jesophi, Jewellery Designer

I’m thrilled that the shop is featured on the blog of a delightful little zine I ordered, called Spoonful, a happiness companion. Thanks Anthea! It is, as the title suggests, a bite sized helping of food for the soul.  There are hearty little snippets of literature, art, and musings on happiness, enhancing the everyday, creativity and more. 

I ordered it to include in my shop as part of the mission of bringing in inspiration from all over the world into this tiny little village where I live. There are just so many wonderful things happening on a grass roots level in the area of creativity and community building that people here would never get exposed to without a guide. So I guess that is what part of the function of this shop is.  Anyway, Spoonful is reasonably priced and beautifully presented, with a nice layout and colour artwork. I’m enjoying, after having read my 3 issues, dipping in and following some of the links, to say, Denise Sharp a creator of whimsical works in paper and calligraphy. Have FUN!

Click for Jesophi Jewellery designer’s Etsy shop