The Poetry Box
If you've seen my "Explorations" page, you probably know that I use it to share projects and skills I have under my belt that aren't UX-related or worthy of a full case study on my homepage. However, I'd like to share some details about one of these projects here on my blog: the poetry box.
This is a piece from the 3D: Form Versus Function course at CCA, taught by Elin Christopherson. This assignment was to choose a poem or song as inspiration and design a wooden box based on the lyrics. This gave me a lot of room to choose my direction on the project and create a unique meaning.
This was created in my very first semester of college, so I was feeling a bit homesick already. I chose the song "Forever Young" by Bob Dylan because the lyrics reminded me of my family back home. The song has some religious references in it, speaking about blessings and being righteous, so after sketching out some ideas and working with a classmate to get feedback, I settled on a dove.
May God bless and keep you always / May your wishes all come true / May you always do for others / And let others do for you
May you grow up to be righteous / May you grow up to be true / May you always know the truth / And see the lights surrounding you
– Bob Dylan, "Forever Young"
This was my first time doing any kind of woodworking, so I was intimidated and nervous about attempting a design like this – but I was excited to give it a try, even if it didn't work out.
I started by making a few different versions of a dove shape. I needed it to be very clearly interpreted, since the outline would be all that I had to convey its meaning. I was quite the perfectionist, making tiny tweaks and getting feedback from my professor and peers until it was just right.
I needed it to be very clearly interpreted, since the outline would be all that I had to convey its meaning.
I selected the sketch I liked best and selected my block of wood. I used these to make my orthographic drawing, which would help me get started later on the bandsaw to start making my box.
The block of wood I was working with gave me a lot of limitations to work around. It wasn't very thick, which was helpful since it would be easier to cut and maneuver as I attempted to use the bandsaw for the first time, but it was also quite tricky because I needed enough depth to create a cutout in the box so it could, well, actually be a box with room for storing things.
I struggled a bit – not just with the technical aspect of things, but even more so overcoming my own fear of messing up and hurting myself or ruining my one block of wood. There were some tight corners and curves in my sketch, and I had a lot of nerves using the bandsaw; I never had an experience with my hand being so close to a blade before!
I ultimately had to put in a lot of time outside of class, coming back to the wood shop on evenings and weekends and getting lots of guidance from others in the shop. Eventually, thanks to my continued effort, support from my instructor and peers, and of course lots and lots of sandpaper, I got the edges of the box relatively smooth and shaped like I wanted.
I struggled a bit – not just with the technical aspect of things, but even more so overcoming my own fear of messing up and hurting myself or ruining my one block of wood.
My last steps were to use a wood burning tool to draw an olive branch in the dove's beak and stain the wood a darker color. There are some imperfections, but it's help up well over time and has been quite functional, being used as a small piece of decor and able to hold small pieces of jewelry or other items.
I have to admit, this was not my ideal way to kick-off my first ever semester at art school. I felt so out of my element, trying something I'd never done before and something that many of my classmates seemed much more comfortable doing compared to me. Truthfully, in the moment, I definitely caught myself feeling frustrated that as a graphic design major (at the time, prior to my switch to IXD), I was spending hours and hours a week in the shop and at home stressing over a woodworking project.
Still, as much as this challenged me, I found motivation knowing that I had something to prove, to myself and to others. I think it was clear, at least to some, that I was very timid and did my best to postpone trying my luck with the bandsaw. I also encountered some technical difficulties when the bandsaw blade suddenly started ominously smoking mid-use before breaking and requiring a time-consuming fix. This led to shaking my already iffy confidence, but I devoted myself to the task and got back on track.
Still, as much as this challenged me, I found motivation knowing that I had something to prove, to myself and to others.
What initially made me doubt my skills and capabilities ultimately became a triumphant success. Not only did I conquer my bandsaw fear, but I actually managed to recreate my sketch exactly while creating something beautiful and useful.