Gazette Archive 3/27/98
A Book Review:
by Bill Britton
Title: Po Shun Leong Art Boxes
Price: $19.95 (Can. $27.95)
As I grow older I find myself more easily adapting to my black sheep uncle's philosophy of life which is, "I'd rather bleed than sweat". My woodworking interests have been evolving from custom furniture making, which I do part-time for fun and profit, to smaller craft items which are generally easier on the old back.
Thus, I jumped at the opportunity (with a little nudging from Chuck Ring) to review the new book from Sterling Publishing entitled Po Shun Leong Art Boxes. After all, I had been looking for a good book on jewelry, music, mystery boxes, etc.
When I began to flip through the book I quickly realized this was not what I had envisioned for this book. I had expected to see the usual boxes one sees at art and craft shows - you know, the kind I was sort of thinking of making? Not So! The pieces shown here in beautiful color (the photography in this book is simply outstanding) are, for lack of a better word, art! Rather amazing art of which the medium happens to be wood. Yes, there are some small boxes here. There are also medium sized boxes, tall boxes over six feet in height, boxes which function as coffee tables, desks, chairs, etc. and each, in it's own right, a masterpiece. They should be. The artist has sold some of these pieces for over $20,000. My interest in making boxes just went to a new height!
Well, I rave and must get to my assigned task of a book review. The book is a soft cover but attractive and durable. The first few pages are a biography of the artist. Mr Po Shun Leong is an architect by profession and has lived and worked in many countries before moving to the States. His work as an artist reflects many cultures and has a world flavor. Following the biography are forty-five pages entitled the "Gallery" and features some of the most amazing art pieces constructed of wood that I've had the pleasure of viewing. Without going further into the book, I think I could classify this book as a collector's item.
Completing the "Gallery" has now discouraged me from building art boxes. I mean, like this stuff is way over this old boy's head. I must go on, however, it is my assigned duty.
Next is a quick look at the artist's tools and studio. Ah, this is more like it. Something I can relate to. It looks like a "shop" to me and I immediately recognize the tools: table saw, band saw, joiner, planer, drill press, and the assortment of sanders, routers, etc. which can be found in most woodworkers' shops. The exception may be the 8'x 8' white board against one wall which the artist uses to draw, sketch, and design a project. Other than this, pretty common tools of nice quality. My interest is perking up again. Although I have a shop instead of a studio, I do have most of the tools - so?
The last segment of the book is the long anticipated "how to" section and I approached it with some apprehension. The artist has designed five small box projects specifically for inclusion in this book. Each project comes with a photograph of the completed item, a parts list with descriptions and dimensions, parts diagram, and a well written instruction and technique discussion. Somewhat to my surprise, was the overall simplicity of construction. No fancy joinery, just basic box construction. Parts are milled primarily with the table saw and band saw. What I had first assumed to be elaborate carving turned out to be band saw and table saw inflicted shaping. As I followed along with building the most simple of the five projects (a desk-top pencil box disguised as a block of New York City skyscrapers), I realized that I could actually build this project in a matter of a few hours. I was impressed!
It's doubtful that I will ever attempt anything approaching the artist's magnificent larger pieces (too little imagination, not enough patience, lazy, and other undesirable attributes I've developed over the years). Still, I foresee eyes opening wide with admiration next holiday season as friends and relatives tear the wrappings off of "art boxes by Bill".
Conclusion! I highly recommend this book as a collector's item of fine art. It is well written and the photography of Po Shun Leong's art is simply outstanding. For those of you with an interest in creating this type of work - I guarantee your creative juices will flow and your imagination will soar.
Editor's note: Sterling has graciously provided many new books for review to our members. If you would like to see what other new books they're offering to woodworker's, please visit their website.