Issue 14 T.O.C. – George Walker – “Working Without Recipes”

This post is part of a blog series revealing the table of contents of upcoming Issue Fourteen. As is our custom, we’ll be discussing one article per weekday in order to give you a taste of what is to come. 

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We all know of some masterful cook who manages to make the most flavorful meals without ever cracking into a cookbook. Somehow, they have an innate knowledge of the proper balance of flavor, texture, and even color to bring together a masterpiece. Meanwhile, we might struggle sticking exactly to the recipe, and end up burning the onions anyway. 

In Issue Fourteen, author George Walker shows us that this recipe-free mindset was the standard way of working for the period artisan. Rather than suffering a crippling reliance on plans and the lack of creative freedom that entails, makers had a solid base of knowledge about form, proportion, and materials from which they could freely design and construct whatever they envisaged, adapting or improvising as necessary as the project unfolded. 

Walker shares from his days as a machinist, when “absolutely nothing was made without a measured drawing.” He brought that mindset into his woodworking, and building to precise numbers and fixed values established the quality of his work. But he soon realized that the freedom he desired in woodworking was entirely absent with this approach; his own personal aesthetic judgment could not be exercised. In researching the ways of the past, Walker shows that it is possible for us to find again that creative freedom; to work without a recipe and create something beautiful. 

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