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Signature style

We often hear about signature style. Among woodworkers, signature style seems to be something of a holy grail. We want our work to be immediately recognizable as ours.

Many makers produce pieces that are more or less the same. More often than not, these pieces are not the same but "similar", based on a concept, shape or combination of elements that become a signature.

You can look at the work of Sam Maloof or James Keenov or George Nakashima and you can instantly recognize the maker. Even though these makers are now deceased, their signature pieces are still being produced by their descendants or their apprentices who are carrying on their work.

It seems to me that this may be either a blessing or a curse, depending, of course, as is the case with many things, on one's perspective. So I would like to ask: Where does signature style morph from a groove to a rut? At what point does the exploration into the variations a particular form offers become a stagnant pool?

Obviously this is going to vary wildly from one person to another. But the answers might make for interesting reading.


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A nice surprise

About ten years ago, I began to do lathe work in earnest. I had several pieces sitting around the house, including one that what was the first of a series of pieces that became something of a signature style, the holy grail of every woodturner.