This year AWR L!VE will take place in Sydney on Saturday August 4, 1:30–5pm. Five leading Australian designer makers will present talks and take part in discussions that focus on the theme of design. Book tickets now.

Roy Schack is a high profile Brisbane designer maker who teaches at the Brisbane School of Fine Woodwork. He also has a wry sense of humour... The other day we asked him some of the why's and wherefore's of woodworking:

AWR: Who are your woodworking heroes/gods/gurus?
Heroes….what, like Obi-Wan Kenobi? I don’t put many up on a pedestal. The people I admire are the quiet achievers. Those makers that don’t care what the world thinks. They just do. They make and design from the head, heart and hands. They have a feeling for the wood. The teachers. The students. The people who love our work so much that they have to have it at almost any costs. In Australia, I think David Mclaren is one of the most important characters in woodworking. In Denmark, Teis Dich Abrahamsen. In Japan, I really admire Kenji Komatsu. In the U.S., Kylle Sebree. In the UK, Wales and Wales. It’s a pretty eclectic bunch, but they are all committed to the craft.

AWR: What is the most challenging thing about being a woodworker?
Communicating to customers why the work you do is valuable.

AWR: How do you come up with designs or an overall concept for your pieces?
RS: That’s tough. If it’s to fill a client brief, it’s about communication with the client, especially in the early days of your woodworking career. If it’s speculative, design inspirations can come from far and wide. I rely heavily on gut instinct. If I design a piece or make a mock up, it doesn’t get to the next level if it makes me feel sick.

AWR: How can we discover or develop a style that matches our personality and aesthetic?
RS: My first High School had a motto. “to thine own self be true” If you’re true to yourself in articulating what it is about design that appeals to you and not your potential market….then eventually you will find your people, the people that get what it is you are doing. Finding or developing that style will depend on the individual. Be focussed about what you do, and don’t like. Start trying by first identifying elements of design in objects that don’t appeal to you. Ask yourself why. Whittle them away until you are left with some fundamental elements that you can identify as appealing to you. And again, ask yourself why. Be truthful to yourself, and always keep an open mind. Be curious, and always look sideways. You never know what’s just around the corner.

AWR: What are your pet woodworking hates?
RS: 1) Full dust bags. But full dust bags mean there’s exciting work being done. 2) Talking woodworking when I’m at the pub with woodworkers. But the company is nice and the beers are always good. 3) The husbands that whisper in their wives’ ears, when the wives are admiring your work, about to buy it, “I can make one of those for you”. But I know I’ve made it, and I know they usually won’t. 4) Woodworkers getting into newish technologies like laser and cnc, and feeling the need to keep justifying it. Don’t justify it. Just do it. Wegner would have if he could have.

AWR: What is your desert island hand tool, machine, timber, woodie book?
RS: A copy of Portlandia’s “The Man Issue” Simply one of the funniest woodworking sketches I’ve ever seen. My sketch book and my 1.3mm clutch pencil.

AWR: The best thing you’ve ever made?
RS: You’re only good as your latest work. My latest piece, ‘Kyoto’ It’s a tough question Linda. All my clients have been told their piece is my best yet. I always enjoy making speculative pieces. I’m only answerable to myself, and it’s liberating.

AWR: Your best excuse for not getting something quite right?
RS: No excuses. I can’t stand them.

AWR: Your most often-made mistake?
RS: What is this? I pay money for sessions like this.

AWR: The best mistake you’ve ever made?
RS: Oh alright… Spending ten years in merchant banking. It allowed me to grow up, learn that there is more in life than just one career, and caused me to question my values. Merchant banking led me to woodworking.

AWR: The thing I would most like to change about wood is….
RS: Nothing. Wood is the perfect medium for me. It has warmth. Strength. Personality. Presence. Tactility. When I touch it, I can feel the air inside. It relaxes my hands.

AWR: The thing I would most like to change about woodworkers is….
RS: Hmmmm. Why change them? The happiest I’ve ever seen people is when they’re creating and in their zone. It’s truly wonderful to watch.

AWR: The thing I would most like to change about my own woodworking is….
RS: I’m doing it. I’m making smaller, more meaningful (to me) pieces that have visual and physical tactility.

AWR: Your best advice for other woodworkers is…
RS: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, to buck trends, and to find your own style.

AWR: What are you looking forward to about AWR L!VE?
RS: Seeing people I don’t see often enough, and meeting new faces. And having a beer with woodworkers. Woodworkers are very, very cool.

Above: Gallery of work by Roy Schack.

AWR L!VE takes place Saturday afternoon, August 4 in Sydney. Earlybird tickets are available until June 29. Speakers include Laura McCusker, Ben Percy, Adam Markowitz, Helmut Lueckenhausen and Roy Schack. Book your tickets now!

AWR L!VE: Tools For Design is proudly sponsored by:


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