The year is 1983 and we'd been having a hot summer in southern Rhode Island. I was only eight years removed from college graduation with a degree in English and art. I'd only been swinging a hammer for about three years. I found myself wanting to get away from my job working for a totally dysfunctional framing crew, when I saw an ad for boat carpenters in Newport. Off I went and filled out the application outlining my experience with every phase of building houses. Under "Other Interests" I listed sailing, music and sculpture. The guy in charge looked at my application and said, "House carpentry doesn't show me anything, but what's this about sculpture?" (Did I mention that boat carpenters—joiners as they like to call themselves—can be pretty uppity about the work they do?) He asked me to come back with my portfolio, which I did, and a week later I reported for work at the boat yard.
The realization that I'd been hired because of my creativity lit up my world like fireworks on July 4th. Because of the quirky, curvy nature of boats, they were looking for someone who could think on the fly and come up with "outside the box" solutions. During my tenure as a boat carpenter and over another decade working on houses, I always kept that notion in the back of my head. We as carpenters and contractors are always asked to solve problems in unusual ways based on our knowledge and experience. That creativity allows us to grow and evolve as craftspeople.
Music and sculpture still play a big role in my life. Lately I find myself making abstract sculpture from various building materials, the most recent of which is corrugated plastic drainage pipe. This stuff is used everywhere from curtain drains to concrete forms for light poles. Last fall I used a length to line a sump hole at friend's place. From an art perspective, it's a blast making sculptures with it. It's light-weight, indestructible and not overly expensive. I've done a half dozen large pieces in the last nine months working with diameters up to 3 feet. I'm not saying that everyone should go out and make crazy abstract sculpture, but letting creativity play an active role in your life will only enhance your ability to think creatively in your everyday work.