There is something profoundly satisfying in viewing the results of a lifetime dedicated to a pursuit. Early mornings, late nights, furrowed brows and aching joints have brought about some of the finest achievements of the human race.
A dancer displays our deepest emotions with agile limbs and nimble footwork, each movement refined and defined over years of searching for the perfect expression. A composer’s symphony lifts our hearts into higher realms, each note wending its way into a perfect crescendo of beauty. We don’t hear the scales practised, the arpeggios run through time and time again. No, we just hear the final result, and it is a marvellous thing. But I think it can be beneficial to remember the journey it took to get to that point.
The Master Craftsman
Recently I have been watching videos of an old woodblock printer at work, a master craftsman if there ever was one, carving each block of wood with a deft precision borne through years of learning his craft. The prints his blocks make are truly beautiful, but the process itself holds the most fascination for me.
His knife cuts through the wood like butter, the blade sharpened so fine an untrained hand would snap it within seconds. The lines are intricate and delicate, mimicking the marks of a brush and leaving no hint of the hard wood from which they were carved.
Woodblock printing involves carving multiple blocks of wood for each colour that will be used in the final print. The block has the lines drawn on it in reverse and then the craftsman carves around the lines so that eventually they protrude from the block ready to be inked and pressed onto paper.
The process is painstakingly slow, each shaving of wood cut out with a meticulous hand that dare not rush for fear of cutting an unruly mark. There is no rubber, no undo, no putting the wood shaving back – each little piece taken from the wood is taken because it is supposed to go, leaving just the wood that will form the line.
This particular master craftsman has created countless works of art, improving and learning with each piece, building up a knowledge and skill base that few could rival. But, he is not done. There is still more to learn, more areas to improve, and there always will be.
The Perfect Craftsman
I haven’t yet poured enough years into my craft to reach the status of a master craftsman, but even when I do, I know that I too will still be searching for that elusive perfection. As a human race we are insufferably imperfect, and strive as we may to reach perfection we always fall short. But there is a Perfect Craftsman, one who carves the perfect mark.
Psalm 18 verse 30 – As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD's word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.
There are times when I doubt the work God is doing, times when I forget that I can’t see the finished picture. I can’t see the other woodblocks with the other colours; I can’t even see all the lines on my own woodblock. The knife hurts, cutting into my pride, stripping away my selfishness. Parts of me that I wanted to hold close are pried away, joining the shavings on the dusty floor.
The great works of art and music I admire so much didn’t come about in a moment of inspiration; they were the apex of a journey of passionate dedication. A journey filled with hills and valleys, trials and fire. God is creating his own masterpiece, a perfect picture. And while the journey may feel far from perfect, my trust is in His perfect craftsmanship.
Thomas Devenish lives in Hobart, Tasmania. He works as a motion designer and enjoys the diverse experiences life has to offer, from wake-boarding to curling up with a good book on a rainy day.
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