Understanding Wood, Truly

by Mathieu

I decided to begin this post with the last paragraph because I know that posts are not always read entirely. 

There might only be a couple of hundred people who will read this post in the next days but I can only hope that some or maybe just one of them will be inspired and set up something similar. This past initiative is a school example of what we need. An ongoing conversation between different fields of expertise instead of just hanging out with the same old group on our own little islands running around in circles. The positive effect on everyone involved in this symposium is not to be underestimated. It creates awareness about what others, whose professions are based around the same material -wood- are doing. Without this awareness we cannot truly appreciate their work, our vision becomes limited and we see only wat is right in front of us.

Are you interested yet? Then please keep reading it only gets better.

In the past I have often experienced a gap between the academic world and the world of craftsmen. Sometimes it’s small but sometimes it’s so big it seems impossible to overcome. A recent experience has drastically changed my point of view and I wonder whether this gap is just an illusion and if it only exists because we allow it to?

Last month I found myself in Montpellier (which by the way is lovely and worth a visit) attending a weeklong symposium about wood sciences and wood crafts that created a cross perspective between Europe and Japan. I was invited as a guest speaker and was happy that my presentation was scheduled for the first day so I had the rest of the week to meet people and enjoy all the demonstrations and presentations.

The symposium was simply amazing and even more than a month later I am still trying to digest all the things I have learned. The best things about such a symposium are all the great people you meet and the conversations and opportunities that arise from those encounters. Let me share some impressions to give you an idea what it was like.

Here you see Takeda-san assembling a small display cabinet. All joinery, no glue or metal hardware, the work speaks for itself.

Takeda assembly

An immense amount of information was shared. For example I learned a lot about how elasticity in woods work and how it evolves over time. Many aspects regarding the quality of wood that could be described as common knowledge for some craftsmen  are confirmed or backed up by science and often the research performed adds new perspectives which in their turn can be applied consciously by craftsmen to enhance the quality of their work.

Samad Zare Mohazabiyeh an Iranian lutes Tar and Setar Maker. It turned out that he is not only a talented instrumentmaker but also a gifted musician who amazed me with his tranquil tunes.

Samad Zare Mohazabiyeh

It would take weeks to write down a synopsis of all the presentations but if you look at the program you can imagine the vast amount of knowledge that was present within all the participants. Pictures won’t tell anything about the content of the presentations so you have to take my word for it when I say that there was a lot to learn. Almost too much but you can’t consider that as a negative aspect.

Everyone I talked to was excited about the event and happy to be part of it. You will read more about some of the craftsman I met  on this blog in the near future.

With all the instrument makers and musicians around there was no lack of music during the nights.

Iris et Takeda-san

I should mention Iris Brémaud and Pierre Cabrolier who reached out and made a tremendous effort to bring everyone together from all these different disciplines. They did something that was selfless and not just serves the purpose of just one group or community. Instead they took up the task of bringing together an interdisciplinary group and set up the foundation for one of the most interesting conversations one can have. Conversations that actually matter, an exchange of knowledge and better mutual understanding that benefits everyone involved without compromise.

There might only be a couple of hundred people who will read this post in the next days but I can only hope that some or maybe just one of them will be inspired and set up something similar. This past initiative is a school example of what we need. An ongoing conversation between different fields of expertise instead of just hanging out with the same old group on our own little islands running around in circles. The positive effect on everyone involved in this symposium is not to be underestimated. It creates awareness about what others, whose professions are based around the same material wood, are doing. Without this awareness we cannot truly appreciate their work, our vision becomes limited and we see only wat is right in front of us.

So if you ever have the chance to bring people together in a similar way, don’t hesitate! It will be a lot of work no doubt and  I am aware that not everyone has time to spare to set up an event like that but no one says you have to do it alone.

Below is a newspaper article which gives another impression of the event.

Article WoodSciCraft-MidiLibre-17-09-14

 

 

 

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