I have the great pleasure of commuting through the DC monuments each day on my way to work, so last week was completely BRILLIANT, as I got to cross the bridge over the Tidal Basin to see the thousands of cherry trees in full bloom, ringing the water like fat, pink cotton candy.
Sadly, the blooms are gone and the green leaves not quite here, and the trees are in their odd transitional period, that not-so-beautiful time akin to our azaleas when the flowers wilt and the leaves haven’t fully matured. Just goes to prove how fleeting the rites of spring are.
But thanks to Geremy Coy, a young woodworker here in DC, we can capture the cherry blossom’s essence year-round:
Geremy’s cherry-blossom panel illustrates the (fittingly) Japanese craft of kumiko, in which slim lengths of straight-grain timber are arranged into traditional patterns and pictures. Here, he joined more than 200 pieces of Alaskan yellow cedar into a wall panel “that evokes the complexity and sense of ordered wildness seen in a blossoming branch,” he writes in an e-mail.
Here, you can see more of the panel’s details:
“The yellow cedar strips were sawn out of a five-foot-long, six-inch-wide board with a hundred-year-old hand saw, and planed to thickness with traditional hand planes,” Geremy explains. “Each piece is oriented to ensure that evenness and uniformity prevail, increasing the power of the overall pattern.”
(Clearly, he doesn’t have kids yet, or this would have been a post about pick-up sticks.)
I asked Geremy what got him started down this incredibly intricate road. The St. John’s College graduate told me that he came by woodworking by way of oil painting at art school in Aix-en-Provence (poor boy).
“That rhythm of (painting) appealed to me, though I also felt myself wanting some kind of immediate, tangible feedback in the thing I was creating,” he writes. “Creating things out of wood, where I could at least judge myself based on how smooth a surface was or how well-fitting a joint turned out to be, started to call to me.”
He found his way back to the area, got an apprenticeship with master cabinetmaker William Schreitz in Annapolis, and now lives with his wife in the District.
Here’s some more of his work:
Having graduated from St. John’s in Annapolis, which focuses on great literature, it’s no surprise that Geremy is a really great writer. I just love how he describes the passion behind his work:
“It has always been important to me that I not simply be a factory-like producer of durable goods; so to avoid the fate of machines, I refused from the beginning to work with them,” he writes.
“Everything I do, I do entirely by hand, because it helps me understand both the material and myself in much greater depth.”
“There’s something deeply compelling about work done by hand — something that resonates with us as we experience the slight variations created by human hands.”
“It’s very humanizing to witness,” he continues. “Life and death is written into the work, and it’s the story that I’m after.”