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Christopher Schwarz - When I Grow Up

06/15/2010 Part 5 of a Series

Christopher Schwarz - When I Grow Up 4I sent the following questions to some of the movers and shakers in the woodworking industry:

1 - When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up? Do you remember what attracted you to your goals?
2 - How did your goals as a kid translate - if they did - into what you are doing professionally now?

I think the answers I got were really instructive and maybe helpful for those we know who are pursuing a dream. Let's let the people speak for themselves. Christopher Schwarz is the editor of Popular Woodworking, a prolific blogger, and author of many books including being my co-author on The Joiner and Cabinet Maker. Chris has been at the forefront of the handtool revival and one of its leading evangelists.
The previous entry in this series is by Jameel Abraham.

Christopher Schwarz -
1 - As a kid, I had three obsessions (that I can talk about publicly. I'm not ready to discuss my unhealthy attraction to women's prisons).

1. Architecture. Our house was crammed with books on building and designing houses that my father bought as he was working on our farm house. My heroes as a kid were Louis Sullivan, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright. In the end, I didn't go to architecture school because the architecture school I was interested in (The University of Arkansas, which was run by another hero, Fay Jones) was just too dang close to my home. I wanted to leave Arkansas.
2. Photography. I had my own darkroom, took classes at the local community college and worked as a lab rat at a local studio. I was head photographer of my high school paper. By the time I got to high school I stopped improving as a photographer. This was frustrating for me and pushed me into the writing side of the business, where I knew I could improve (because I was such a crappy writer).
3. Making books. As a kid, one of my hobbies was writing, illustrating and binding little books (which I would try to sell to the neighborhood kids). Really, it is a miracle I reproduced. The only book I ever sold was to my parents. It was a book on military vehicles of World War II.

All three of these obsessions are about turning ideas into physical things. They all require some hand skill and creativity. When I became a newspaperman, I was miserable because I wasn't making anything tangible. (If I had been allowed to work in both the pressroom and the newsroom, I might still be in newspapers.)

When I left daily journalism I went into something where I could get my hands dirty and be directly involved in the creation of the end product – I started my own newspaper (which was a failure). Luckily, Popular Woodworking then hired me.

2 - In my eyes, all three of my obsessions help me today. The architecture helps me with furniture design. The photography helps me with photography, which I do every day. And making books... that's obvious. I like every aspect of publishing.

Join the conversation
06/15/2010 LJ_velo_tom
Chris, I'm very glad you found your nitch. Your books, videos, and articles have been a great help for me. Just wanted to say thanks. Incidentally, we both had rather similar "Number 1" obsessions when we were young.
06/17/2010 Larry James
Thomas would be proud. Your off the wall sometimes, but I read and learn
from what you write anyway.

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The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.