The Sacrament of Creation

By

My dad gave me the gift of woodcraft when I was a child. I grew up watching him, and later helping him, make furniture in the garage, and a lot of what he made is still in good use. I expect I’ll inherit some of it one day, and it’ll go on being of good use in my own home. The craft he gave me has served me well for my entire life. I built a violin when I was writing The Fiddler’s Gun, and though it’s far from a masterpiece, I’m still proud of it. Every time someone picks it up and plays it, I get a little tear in the corner of my eye. I built two cedar canoes a few years ago and that experience was something very akin to a love affair. It’s hard to spend months caressing the curve of a handmade boat without coming to feel a strange affection for it–an affection that’s doubled when it’s set afloat for the first time. I read a quote once that went something like this: “Happiness is crossing a still water in a vessel of your own making, and landing upon an undiscovered isle.” If you’ve ever built something and seen it put to good use, you’ll understand how true that statement is.

A few days ago, Dave Bruno shared the following short film from the Christianity Today website. It’s about a furniture maker named Harrison Higgins, and I wonder if he might tell us that “Happiness is sitting down in a chair of your own making to eat a well-prepared dinner.” The act of creation, the craftsman says, can be either a sacrament or a sacrilege, depending on how we approach our work. The film is only about 5 minutes long, but it’s something like a love letter to the art of woodcraft–a subject near and dear to me.

Watch it here: Furniture Fit for the Kingdom. And then read this excellent article about it: Artificial Grace: Why the Creation Needs Human Creativity. Special thanks to Dave Bruno for bringing this to our attention on the Facebook Hutchmoot page.

Profile photo of Pete Peterson

Pete Peterson is the author of the Revolutionary War adventure The Fiddler’s Gun and its sequel Fiddler’s Green. Among the many strange things he’s been in life are the following: U.S Marine air traffic controller, television editor, art teacher and boatwright at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, and progenitor of the mysterious Budge-Nuzzard. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jennifer, where he's the Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press.


18 Comments

  1. Dave miller

    Funny you should post today Pete, I was going to email you with my experience of reading the fiddler green to my teenage daughter, we are laughing to tears with the doctor’s line “you’re going to die”. The story is so well written we are dreading finishing it knowing at this point there are not further installments with these characters. I know, the books have been around a while and we are late coming into the game but holding out for another story by you. Smile. Whether it be wood or by pen you are one talented gentleman! If we ever make it to Nashville from the great Northwest we are looking forward to shaking your hand. Cheers!

  2. Sir Jonathan C. Andrews

    Thanks Dave and Pete. That was really beautiful. There is something about making something with my own hands that makes me feel more alive. When I find the right piece of wood to use for a project it’s as if it knows what it was made for and that it is trying to become what it wants to be. Sometimes my creative side takes control or sometimes the object pushes a project into something better I didn’t expect. Of course there’s always the projects I have to lay down and come back to later that just don’t want to cooperate at the time. In the end I love the feeling of sitting back and thinking of the work put into a craft and being thankful for the materials and the One who made them.

  3. Andrew Housholder

    In the Chapter House at Westminster Abbey, heavily damaged by air raids in World War II, there is a pane of stained glass in the corner commemorating the artisans who built and rebuilt the room. It reads, “Of the craftsmen it may be said, ‘In the handiwork of their craft is their prayer.'”

    I walked away from that room worried about our physical gift to the world today. Ikea end tables and drywall rooms that won’t hold up for our lifetime. It’s beautiful what Harrison Higgons is doing, reclaiming the art of creation as a necessary act of worship. Thanks for sharing his story.

  4. Hannah

    Great to come home to something about woodworking–which I definitely did not grow up doing and don’t have the tools for–since I just came back from an architectural salvage sale with two cupboard doors (hopefully soon-to-be end table tops) and two windows (don’t know what they’ll be yet). I look forward to watching the video and reading the article…and creating and using these pieces in my new apartment.

    Dave, I just read the 100 Thing Challenge a couple of weeks ago; the woodworking tools were the hardest for me to “see” you give up, but thanks for many laughs and good insights. For some reason, knowing that you were a fellow Wheaton grad seemed to give the book a whole new layer.

  5. Laura Peterson

    Nice find, Dave Bruno!

    Note to all – After viewing/reading these, I think it would be a great use of your time to hop over to the Podcast section here and listen to Episode #7. Pete reads a piece he wrote called “The Art of Work,” and it’s wonderful.

  6. Osage11

    What a great piece. Thanks so much for sharing Pete. I am always amazed at how often the feelings I struggle to communicate seem to show up so wonderfully explained in the Rabbit Room. I make primitive bows and for me there is nothing better than releasing the first arrow from the strain of a newly bent stick. I have to say, however, it is the wood that intrigues me, the color, the grain, the smell. In the right light and with the right finish it becomes almost holographic, with deep and shifting patterns that play throughout the piece. I get lost thinking about it. Every time it’s exposed my heart skips a little and all I can think is how great is our God really is. That he would create something so seemingly simple, yet…
    See, I just can’t explain it

  7. Carl

    Pete, you so wonderfully describe the pouring out of yourself into the crafting of the canoes… along those lines, I was most fascinated by the book “The Survival of the Bark Canoe” by John McPhee (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54974.The_Survival_of_the_Bark_Canoe). Although I consider myself “non-handy,” this book pointed my imagination to the heart of creation, that is, fashioning beauty out of the void. I highly recommend checking it out if you had not already.

  8. EmmaJ

    So true. In a world of mass-produced, easily accessible stuff, there’s something so real and alive about using things (or giving things) that you’ve made yourself.

  9. Osage11

    Sir Jon,
    I have never taken any pictures of my bows. Curiously, I have never thought to do so. However, I love the pipes. It just may be time for more shavings to fly my friend.

  10. Lois

    I’ve never done any woodworking but I have managed to do a fair amount of sewing and crochet and I too get that feeling when I am wearing something I sewed or using something I crocheted.
    Thanks! 🙂

  11. Peter B

    Thanks, Pete; yours is a timely reminder (as usual).

    Also, we watched Pirates! this weekend, and I couldn’t help but think of you.

  12. Dave Bruno

    Sorry to come late to the conversation. Thanks for posting on this Pete!

    Can I make a confession? While I didn’t get rid of all of my books, I have attempted to sell or even give away Andy Rae’s Choosing & Using Hand Tools, one of my favorite woodworking books of all time. Alas, it has remained unwanted in a corner of our department at PLNU…and I just snuck it back to the bookshelf in my office. I feel confident that the 100TC sufficiently cured me of excessive consumerism to covet hand planes and chisels again. Right?

    P.S. Hannah – Go Thunder!

If you have a Rabbit Room account, log in here to comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *