by John Schroeder
Reprinted from Spring 2012 Newsletter
Creativity. It’s a word that is often associated with the fine arts of painting, drawing, writing, and music, etc., but as you are well aware, there is a large aspect to handcrafted log construction that is creative work. If log builders weren’t creative, then there is no way they’d be handcrafting log homes. Am I right? Every industry requires creative thinking to survive, grow, produce, and succeed. How can you use creative thinking to improve your log construction? How can you use new ideas and new innovations to build upon a centuries-old craft?
As a student, instructor, and obsesser of the creative process, I encourage the reading and study of A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger Von Oech. This book is subtitled “How to be More Creative” and offers great instruction on how to think more creatively, which can push your success in any industry.
For the scientists in the crowd, there are some great parallels to be realized between the creative method and the scientific method. In the progression of the creative method/process, Von Oech explains that we wear four different hats or play four different roles: explorer, artist, judge, and warrior. In each role, there is opportunity to be innovative and take a new approach to your old routines, which can put you to the front, cutting edge of your industry.
Though I hope you find time to read the book on your own, I take this opportunity to
summarize the stages of creativity and scribe it to log home construction.
The role of the explorer, in brief, is the act of going out and gathering loads of information that may or may not be used later in the process. It’s great to keep a file or a journal to harbor the plethora of potential ingredients you gather. This step is merely the gathering of ideas and information, but not synthesizing or processing any.
In log construction, exploring may include Internet searches to see photos of buildings around the globe, as mentioned in the article “Inspiration via the Internet.” It may include clipping photos from log home or timber magazines. It could be notes on methods, floor plans, tools, jigs, patterns, and various information on construction. It can and should include inspiring media that at first glance carries no connection to log homes whatsoever. Maybe it’s a painting, a carving, a geometric pattern, or a photo of ancient architecture that can be later used to inspire new log design styles or trimmed accents. It may also contain ad clippings or other ideas for how to promote your business. Keep a file that collects all the possibilities you may use in improving your craft and your business. Internet, books, photos, floor plans, quotes, sketches, magazine clippings, and a limitless list of other sources can be collected for later inspiration.
The role of the artist is the peak of the creative process, in which you synthesize ideas and come up with a range of possibilities to accomplish your goal, answer your question, or solve your problem. The artist stage is for the right side of the brain, the creative side, in which no judgment should be place. It is for brainstorming; the judgment and evaluation of ideas comes later. This is similar to forming a hypothesis in the scientific method, except in creativity there are dozens and dozens of ‘hypotheses’ formed in brainstorms. Creativity is all about taking two or more unrelated things and creating something new by dovetailing them together.
In log construction, you may be using the role of the artist to come up with new and improved ways to do things in any aspect of the process. Is it a more space-efficient floor
plan? Do you add unique carvings on log ends or accents around windows to personalize the home? How about business models or techniques from other industries to make log building more efficient and cost-effective? An assembly line? New software? New methods of calculation? Maybe you find a way for works of art to influence your building design. How would Van Gogh build a log cabin? What would a log home look like if it were in ancient Rome? Finding inspiration in the most unlikely places may give your structures a
unique look that people will rave about.
The role of the judge must eventually come to play, or the endless stream of brainstorming would never end. The judge is necessary to evaluate what ideas would work, be the best, and serve to satisfy the ultimate goal.
In log construction, the judge is necessary to evaluate the ideas generated as the artists. Maybe building a cabin to look like a Swiss chalet was brilliant or the idea to mimic an Egyptian pyramid was a flop. Perhaps an assembly line can’t be done in the log yard, but that new idea for a jig is perfect! The role of the judge is where your years of experience and knowledge of the craft will be beneficial in sorting out the brilliant, innovative ideas from the ones that need to go back to the scrap pile.
Finally, there is the role of the warrior: the hat that is worn to carry out the mission and
accomplish the tasks. Without actually implementing the plan, the previous roles were of no use other than an exercise in creative thinking.
Log crafters are well acquainted with the role of the warrior. From enduring cold, winter temperatures to summer downpours of rain, it takes a strong and admirable constitution to build a log home. New and innovative ideas may take some additional planning, labor to create the new process, or a few more hours to add the artistic touch; but putting in the sweat and blood to realize a new improvement to the craft is well worth the effort and absolutely necessary.
Handcrafted log builders are by definition a creative crew of professionals. Play your strengths and see how creative thinking can improve your craft, your methods, and your
Concepts summarized from: Von Oech, Roger (1998). ‘A Whack on the Side of the Head’ Warner Books. New York, NY.
Join our network of skilled log crafters at www.gllca.org