Creative Solutions to the Coronavirus: Owain Responds
How the NH Furniture Masters are using creativity and craftsmanship to overcoming this global crisis
How have you been keeping busy during the quarantine?
Like many of my fellow Masters, I mostly work alone, so I have been able to continue working in the studio throughout. Focusing on work was especially cathartic during the initial few weeks of the pandemic as a strategy for dealing with anxiety and uncertainty. I consider myself very lucky to have that as an outlet. I did find my ability to stay focused for long periods of time to be diminished however, so I took the opportunity to pour my energy into other things as well. My wife was laid-off in mid-March so we spent a lot of time together walking and gardening — the vegetable garden and the yard has never looked better! I have always wanted to learn how to bake bread, so I jumped on the baking band-wagon and can now turn out a preLy decent French baguette. I think that mostly I tried to take advantage of the slow-down to appreciate my many blessings, to enjoy the slow change from winter to spring, and to reassess and reaffirm what is most important to me as a creator, as a husband, and as a human being.
Are you continuing to stay busy with work? How has this affected you?
Immediately following the lock-down, I did lose one commission because of the situation. However, within the first few weeks I started to hear from past clients and potential new clients who were stuck at home and using the time to think about house projects. That initial wave of inquiries resulted in a few commissions. Beyond that, I am continuing to work on projects that predate the pandemic. The flurry of emails and calls I received in the early days has definitely waned at this point, and I fear that we are heading into a time of deep economic uncertainty. In addition, for the past several years, some portion of my yearly income has been made from teaching furniture making at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine. The school shut down in March and will not be opening again until late September. I had been scheduled to teach during that time, so that will be lost income. I am cautiously optimistic that I will be able to teach in October, but of course, it will be under very different circumstances.
Has this changed your creativity at all? Do you find yourself using new or different creative outlets?
I don’t think that it has changed my creativity necessarily, but it has definitely changed my attitudes and priorities surrounding my work. Pre-pandemic, I was heavily focused on keeping projects rolling through the shop and so I was not always making work that I connected with as a result. I think that the past few months have reminded me that it’s okay to slow down and take a breath every now and then. I hope to be able to focus more on commissions and spec work that truly spark joy and excitement in the future. I am currently working on a few pieces that I am really excited about, and I have plans to focus on some spec pieces later in the summer.
What are you missing the most as a result of the coronavirus crisis?
Professionally I am missing the opportunity to show my work and to interact one on one with collectors and clients. I am missing time spent with my fellow makers and members of the NH Furniture Masters. I am missing being with students and faculty at the school where I teach.Personally I am missing museums, and restaurants, and cocktail bars. I am missing hugging my friends and family. I miss travel, and I miss brunch. I miss baseball and backyard barbecues. I miss seeing peoples faces in public. Mostly I am missing the spontaneity and ease of pre- pandemic life. I never realized how much I took for granted the ability to come together in groups.
To learn more about Furniture Master Owain Harris, visit his Meet the Masters page. See the video below for a project that Owain is currently working on.