Form, Function and the Right Tools

I’ve had tools on the brain lately, owing in part to the fact that David has just built himself a new workshop and we’ve had a steady stream of power and hand tools arriving at our house.  David and I are both avid hobbyists and outfitting ourselves with the requisite “tools of the trade” is something that we spend a lot of time thinking about, researching and discussing.  This kind of engagement with material “stuff” is a big departure for me as I’ve always had an aversion to anything that smacked of “the next”, “the newest”, or, god forbid, “the best”.  Plus I recently sold a house and donated tons of “stuff” I neither used nor wanted.

So how to explain my love affair with this:


or this:


or this?


Well, let’s just say it’s been a process.

In the beginning there were these:


and this:

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These bowls, however artfully displayed for this photo are a set of pyrex nesting bowls from Walmart.  Fifteen dollars and  pure functional perfection.  Believe it or not, I lived my entire adult life, raised a family, cooked holiday meals for twenty people and did not own a set of mixing bowls until three years ago.  Ditto for the (flour-covered) apron which is something I use nearly every day.  Its toile fabric makes me smile every time I put it on.  Form and function.

As I think about all the stuff that I donated, aside from boxes and boxes of books (I swore off ever buying another hardcover!) I never even used half of it.  Baccarat bowls and vases,  decorative pitchers and plates, Judaica, oversized serving platters, urns and tureens, Lladro figurines, and on and on.  The thing is, I never personally selected any of them- they were all gifts.  And at the risk of sounding like a horrible ingrate I couldn’t wait to unload them all.  I let myself be surrounded by stuff that was in no way reflective of my taste or lifestyle.

During this “unloading period”  I felt great when I was able to give my children the items that they needed or wanted.  After all these things were a part of their family home and their history.  I assumed that they might feel differently about them than I did. My daughter, for instance, was delighted with the Judaica since she is more observant than I am.  My son, Michael, always coveted some depression glass bowls that had belonged to his great-grandmother. I imagine he uses and enjoys them.  Sam inherited a leather recliner that I never, ever sat on.

When David and I started living together, first in a three bedroom apartment and then in our current home we started pretty much from scratch. Like me, David had taken little from his family home post-divorce.  At first we carefully and judiciously outfitted our kitchen with things we needed and were reflective of our healthy lifestyle–good quality cookware, sturdy utensils and basic dishes and platters .  Little by little our lifestyle started to directly dictate what we wanted to buy instead of the other way around.  If we couldn’t use it, we didn’t want it.  Even the beautiful Le Creuset Dutch Oven (which was a Valentine’s Day gift for me) and the nifty fire-engine red Kitchenaid mix-master are supremely functional as well as beautiful.  Cooking has never been such a satisfying experience.

This approach to acquiring just about everything has prevailed.  We are lucky that as our children have begun supporting themselves we have more disposable income to spend on higher quality items for ourselves.  This includes the Bernina serger pictured above and many of David’s power tools.   We have found that in sewing and woodworking as in cooking,  higher quality or the “right” tools are an integral part of creating a quality product.

Even as I have gotten more comfortable with having good quality things, I am still extremely cautious about filling my life  with clutter and stuff that is not congruent with who I am.  For now, this means some empty rooms, empty shelves, empty wall space and a living room that looks like this:


Tournament starts at 7 🙂