26 February 1997
A passion for wood'I didn't want the artists to grab all the attention', comments Greg St John, designer and maker of the Cabinet of Curiosities. Certainly no-one who views the Cabinet will fail to be impressed by Greg's work - by the exquisite level of detail, and by his obvious care and skill. But the Cabinet is more than just a piece of fine furniture, it is an expression of Greg's passion for working with wood.
'What I enjoy most is applying skills and imagination to timber and creating an object that not only evokes a feeling, but is also functional', Greg explains. His passion for timber was ignited while working with a retired builder. The older man's feeling for his craft inspired Greg, wood offered him a medium to express his vision, to display his specialness. Greg continues to hone his skills at the Canberra School of Art working with George Ingham, an internationally-recognised master craftsman.
'People will view the Cabinet in different ways', reflects Greg. 'Some will be interested in the stories and themes, some the artistic value, but others will focus on the container.' From the hand-tooled dovetail joints, to the allowances made for different climatic conditions, Greg has built a number of subtle messages into the Cabinet. In twenty, thirty, perhaps a hundred years time, a craftsman will examine the Cabinet closely and start to interpret Greg's messages. Through his work on the Cabinet, Greg is communicating with the future - 'I was conscious that I was creating an antique', he notes.
The Cabinet posed many problems - finding suitable timbers, predicting the effects of humidity, balancing aesthetic and structural needs, amongst them. But people's reactions to the work have made it well worthwhile - 'I love to see the expressions on their faces'.
Prepared by Tim Sherratt (Tim.Sherratt@asap.unimelb.edu.au)
for publication on ASAPWeb. Last modified 25 June 1997.