December 1, 2013

Master woodworker explores why we create in new book

The director of the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship is also a dedicated baker and now author.

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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This is a dancing swan desk crafted by Peter Korn, director of the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport. (Photo courtesy Peter Korn)

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Courtesy photo

Additional Photos Below


“WHY WE MAKE THINGS AND WHY IT MATTERS: THE EDUCATION OF A CRAFTSMAN,” by Peter Korn, was published Nov. 21 by Godine Publishing of Boston (176 pages, hardcover, $22). Korn is founder and executive director of the Center for Furniture Craftmanship in Rockport.

Creative work is a source of fulfillment, Korn said, “but only while we’re doing the work.”

Korn still makes furniture, on average one piece a year. He chooses his projects carefully, often a gift for a friend. The last thing he built was a dining room table in 2012.

Surviving Hodgkin’s disease twice – the first time when he was 27 and again when he was 46 – taught him to cherish his time and fill it with worthy endeavor.

The first time he got sick, he was given slightly better than 50-50 odds at survival. He was young, and certainly didn’t want to lose his life. But he accepted death as a possibility. The second time, his odds were much worse: 15 percent.

By then, in middle age, he very much wanted to live. He had found his purpose and passion, and wanted the chance for continued fulfillment.

Today, Korn mostly teaches. And writes.

He’s an avid reader, and has always enjoyed writing. But until “Why We Make Things and Why It Matters,” he focused his writing on how-to books. This one is different.

He began writing it in 2005. Daunted by the task of a more personal story, he vowed to write incrementally. He had been thinking of these themes for years, so his concept was well entrenched. But the act of writing challenged him.

Including edits and rewrites, he averaged 30 words a day.

Writing well is hard work, he said, calling attention to a cartoon hanging in his office at the school. In the cartoon, a prisoner is tied to the rack. The executioner admonishes, “Don’t talk to me about suffering – in my spare time, I’m a writer.”

He hopes that people who read this book share an appreciation for the value of work well done, for a focused effort.

In this case, value is not monetary, he said.

“You can have all the money in the world, but there’s not a person who has all the money in the world who says their fulfillment comes from the money,” he said.


Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be reached at 791-6457 or:bkeyes@pressherald.comTwitter: pphbkeyes

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Additional Photos

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Peter Korn, director of the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, poses for a portrait in one of the school’s classrooms. He came to Rockport in 1993, where he founded the center that has taught thousands of aspiring craftsmen the art of creating in wood. Korn’s new book, below left, is “Why We Make Things and Why It Matters: The Education of a Craftsman.” Below, Korn’s dancing swan desk.

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Randy Howell of Leesburg, Va. works on his case piece as part of a nine-month comprehensive course at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. (Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer)

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This is a continuous arm chair crafted by Peter Korn, director of the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport. (Photo courtesy Peter Korn)

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