Passion and Craftsmanship
In my teens, I spent two summers working at a Boy Scout Camp. My first year, I worked as a troop guide and handicraft instructor teaching the Basketry Merit Badge. My second year, I worked as a troop guide and taught the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge.
The Basketry Merit Badge consisted of learning about safety and first aid you might need while working with basketry tools and materials, learning about and identifying types of baskets and weaves and then making two baskets (round and square) and weaving a seat. It was originally part of the Craftsmanship Merit Badge until the Craftsmanship Merit Badge was split into different areas and different badges in 1928. The first day of class, I would teach about the safety, first aid, tools, materials, types and weaves and then show the Scouts how to weave their baskets. They then had the week to make their two baskets and when they returned to pass them off, they would weave the seat and complete the Merit Badge. The first day filled with classes was busy with the middle of the week free as the Scouts would make their baskets with most of them returning to pass them off at the end of the week. I was in the Handicraft Area for questions and to offer help but most of the time during the middle of the week did not have students.
Next to the basketry area was the wood carving area. The wood carving instructor was in his early twenties and was very talented. I would watch his lessons when I didn’t have students. I was not passionate about basketry. I was not passionate about wood carving either but I was interested. I carved two things that summer that I was happy with and learned a lot from the instructor.
I went on to earn my Eagle Scout and counted Basketry and Wood Carving as two of the many Merit Badges I earned.
Shortly after college I was asked to serve as a Scoutmaster for our local troop. I thought a Scoutmaster should have a nice hiking stick and I decided to carve one. I only recall carving one thing since that summer of watching the Wood Carving Instructor. I pulled out my pocket knife and found a piece of aspen and began carving. I carved an Eagle perched on the top of the stick and then all of the Scout rank advancement badges I had earned. I carved a handle and below the handle I carved the many Merit Badges I earned as a Scout. I took a long time carving. I know I spent over forty hours carving and probably 20 or so painting all the details. I didn’t have a passion for wood carving when I started but as I began to master the cuts and form and shape the wood into a representation of something else it began to become easier and more and more enjoyable as I began to master the craft. That stick is now one of my treasures.
That first stick was carved with a pocket knife. I enjoyed the hobby and bought carving knives and gouges which made it faster and later sticks gave me even more experience. I have carved sticks for those close to me and one for each of my three boys when they earned their Eagle Scout Awards. They are a labor of love for me and are treasured by those who have them. They are as much functional as they are art and are proudly displayed.
I never had a passion for wood carving until I had practiced enough to become good at it. Being good at something creates a passion. As you master something, passion for it becomes inevitable. You grow, move and change as you become a Craftsman and with it develop a passion.
There are a lot of people who say that we should follow our passions – in study, jobs, and life. I believe the contrary. I believe you should pick something you enjoy and are interested in and then put in the hours to master it and with it will come the passion. Such was the case for me with wood carving. Such was the case for me with Taxes and Accounting. I am currently learning oil painting and hope to master it someday. As one instructor taught, “Once you learn the basics, the rest is just miles and miles of canvas.”
Pick your passion and develop it by becoming master craftsman. Mastery is the easiest way to develop passion.
9/17/2020 09:47:04 am
Wonderful article Chortney. Your hiking poles are certainly part of your legacy. I treasure the hiking pole you carved for me. Thanks for being an example of excellence in everything you tackle.
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