Body of Work

When my former boss hired cabinetmakers, he would always ask for photos of their work. It didn’t have to be a fancy portfolio – snapshots were fine.

Some of the job candidates brought this to the interview instead: “I’ve made some incredible pieces. I just finished up this coffee table with bookmatched veneer panels, stringing and inlay. Just stunning.”

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Those people were not hired.

That policy stuck in my craw. So when I started selling pieces in the 1990s, I kept photos of every piece I made – even if it was just a snapshot. Those photos are organized by date in three-ring binders in my office.

These days I simply load a selection of my photos to my personal website, Even though I closed my commission book in 2019, I keep the website up to date because it’s easy, and it’s a great way to answer the question: What sort of work do you do?

But there’s another reason I keep my website up – one that might not be obvious. Whenever I encounter someone online with interesting ideas or opinions, I try to find pictures of their work. I always like to see furniture. And I like to see if the person’s words match their deeds.

If I can’t find photos of the person’s work, or if the photos don’t jibe with the words, I roll my eyes. What do I mean when I say “the words don’t match the work?” Example: People who jabber on about handwork and David Pye but the only pieces they show are crazy-quilt cutting boards with a routed-out juice groove. Or the person goes on and on about furniture, but the only work they show is router jigs. 

These days, keeping a record of your work is practically free. Phones take better photos than cameras. You can upload your photos for zero dollars to a free blog. Or Instagram. So I don’t buy the argument that only professionals or wealthy people can keep and display a record of their work.

I’m not saying everyone should do this (but it would be fun and awesome if everyone did because I love to see furniture). If you’re an amateur woodworker who doesn’t spout opinions, proclamations, maxims, criticisms and homilies everywhere you go, then feel free to just continue being a good citizen.

But if you’re trying to change my mind, you’re going to have to have the photos to do it.

— Christopher Schwarz


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