Re-creating the past

How do you include an old character in a new movie when the original actor has died? This is a woodworking analogy so you know the answer: You create a reproduction.

It should come as no surprise to regular readers that I played hooky to go see the first showing of “Rogue One,” the new Star Wars movie, on opening day. Hey, once a geek, always a geek.  (Don’t worry, no spoilers here.)

As most already know, the events of “Rogue One” take place immediately before the original 1977 film. As such, a number of original characters are expected to make an appearance even though many of the original actors are no longer with us after 38 years. But through the magic of CGI we can still see them on screen to the delight of fans everywhere.

But wait, woodworkers have been doing that since a long, long time ago.

We’ll never see another original piece from Thomas Chippendale, George Hepplewhite, Thomas Sheraton, the Greene brothers, Gustav Stickley or the original Shakers. In more recent years we’ve lost master craftsmen like Sam Maloof and George Nakashima. But new work in their styles lives on in a way not so dissimilar to what can be seen in the new Star Wars movie.

Woodworkers re-create the craftsmanship of departed furniture legends, just as the talented folks at Disney have re-created the on-screen work of actors who are no longer with us. No less admiration for the original’s work goes into the creation of either, and certainly no less skill (although in wholly different art forms). Sure, in both of these art forms the reproductions are never “the same” – aficionados of both can easily spot the differences – but the goal is the same, as is the appreciation for the work.

The bottom line is that even though we’ve lost talented makers in both fields, there is enjoyment to be had not only in existing works – original pieces in museums and the original films – but in new works created by those who excel in the field of reproducing their art.

As a woodworker and a film fan, I appreciate and enjoy both.

A.J.

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