I’ve recently moved house and so have been using space in a friend’s barn to do some of my own greenwood work. On Saturday morning I got a phone message saying there’d been a fire in the barn in the area where I stored all my tools and stuff. At first I thought maybe I’d misheard but it was still the same with a second hearing. I called the friend who told me that thankfully no-one was hurt and the barn is relatively unscathed but everything in that corner of the barn was destroyed.
Yesterday I went over to have a look for myself and raked the remaining steel out from under the remains of a bench.
It’s hard to explain how it feels. I’ve never had a lot of tools, draw my inspiration from people and cultures who can make with few tools and I try hard not to be attached to material possessions. I’m reminding myself that it’s not really the tools that are important; I still have the knowledge and skills in my head and hands, I can replace tools. Even so, these are tools I’ve worked with for several years, modified and refined for my hands and way of working. It’s overly sentimental to refer to them as friends but they were certainly familiar, special to me with stories behind them and I can’t help but feel sad to see them in this state.
What next? I’m lucky that I have friends who will loan me tools in the short term so I can carry on with my work. An event like this raises thoughts and possibilities about what direction to take; it’s a crossroads. Do I just buy an new set of the same tools or think about whether there’s actually other things I could be doing, or different ways of doing the same things?
‘What would you save if the workshop was on fire?’ is a popular conversation among makers to pass the time. In truth I expect you rarely get the luxury or heartache of having to choose.