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  • Josie Emery

A Dream of Boxes





This box I recently made intrigues me. It sits here in my front room on this table I made a decade ago. There’s a movement within it, a flow. Certainly the flow of the grain around its sides helps. That flow constrained between the lid and base surrounds.


I like a little roughness in my personal work. So you can see where a human hand has been in the cutting of the wood. Humans have been hewing wood for millennia. We should acknowledge that.


I like what chance and discovery can do. The strikingly-grained timber of the sides was lying around in my back shed for some years and had become slightly warped. I can’t even tell what species it is any more. I think it’s Central Victorian Blackwood. It worked like Blackwood. The table it sits on is from that species. But that was a fallen tree that had lain long enough for insects to rework its edges in a flow that I could not have achieved. (So you can see where other life-forms have interacted with the wood, like I have interacted with it.)


The surrounds are from what I think is American yellow pine. It was originally the surrounds of a full-length mirror from the early 20th Century. It had been covered in thick black enamel paint which I scraped and sanded off. The top from a piece of plywood left over from another job.


I sat with the finished box for some days and the empty expanse of the lid nagged at me until I finally jumped up and took a slice of sequoia - again from another job - and glued it in place. Then I could relax. It floats there like the boulder in a Zen garden. Then I could begin applying the tung oil which always brings the grain to life.


A box is nothing without its lid. In fact without a lid it’s not a box! And a lid adds mystery because it opens up the question: what’s in the box? What will happen when I lift that lid?


Boxes are one of the most ancient pieces of personal furniture. Their structure, their mode of construction, is almost ageless. As well as the sense of drama that comes with the question of what might happen when you open the box there’s always the sense that a box has travelled. Things were put in it. It was lifted onto a horse or donkey or camel, or boat or wagon. It became part of a journey. It became part of a story.


I made this box to contain all the bits and accessories for my Dremel rotary tool. So it’s a work box, or working box. But when I come in from working I can stretch out here on my sofa and let the lines and the mystery of the box beguile me and I let it take me into some interior journey of mine. Perhaps the box contains the mystery of my soul?


The first thing a carpenter makes is a box for her tools. Ahh, carpenters! I come from a culture that reveres carpenters. Here's a song that Johnny Cash wrote about a carpenter.






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