Note from the Blogmaster: Today we introduce to you a new contributor to Buzz Saw, Ralph Bagnall of ConsultingWoodworker.com. Ralph is a consultant and a woodworker, and he has written pieces for Woodworker's Journal and other publications. Many of you will also recognize Ralph from woodworking communities on various websites, most notably as Consultingwood on Twitter. He maintains a very active online presence, and we're very pleased to have him join the blog. Welcome, Ralph!
Like many of you, I need to come up with creative gift ideas for family and friends every year. Weddings, housewarmings, birthdays and Christmas can tax even the most creative minds.
Here are a few of my tricks for getting, and more importantly, keeping ideas:
I'll admit, "shopping" is not my idea of fun. But it does become more interesting if I also keep a lookout for new ideas. World Market, Crate and Barrel, Pier One and specialty boutique shops can all provide grist for the idea mill. I might spot a cheap sushi set made in China, like the idea, and refine it with better quality materials and some design embellishments.
For furniture ideas, nothing beats antique shops. My local shops give me the chance to really examine a piece and see how it is constructed. More widely, the internet connects you to furniture from all over the world. The Hoosier Step Stool featured in an article I wrote for the Woodworker's Journal (WWJ, June 2002) was first found on eBay. I wrote to the seller asking for dimensions and other information he might have. He was very generous with his help. (And that reminds me, don't forget to peruse back issues of your woodworking magazines!)
Catalogs and decor magazines are another great source. I go through them and scan interesting ideas into my computer for later reference. It might be a five dollar breadboard in the catalog, but made with care in figured maple, it becomes a fine gift worthy of your friend's table. And don't neglect the online woodworking forums. Members there are always ready to share pictures (and sometimes even plans!) of creative ideas they have used in the past.
Before computers, designers and artists kept a "vertical file" of ideas for future reference. I set up a folder on my computer desktop with the same name so when I need a quick gift idea ("Look Honey, we just got an invitation to Kim and Fred's wedding!") I can quickly review all the notes and photos I stored. Keeping it in your computer allows you to easily set up subfolders and keep similar items grouped together. Some of these may sit there forever, but when I need fresh ideas, I know right where to find them.