Last fall I bought a pen-and-ink drawing from local artist Jake Furnald, who has more talent and skill in his right pinky finger than most of us have in our entire beings. He can draw, paint, and weld. He works with wood, copper, steel, and engines. He can side a house, build a door, tell a story. Everything in Jake’s home and shop is custom-made, from door handles to the garden fountain to the sunroom on the roof.
He studied liberal arts at Beloit College and worked with Dr. Evermor, but otherwise is self-taught. On most days you can find him quietly creating fantastical things in his workshop on East Washington Avenue in Madison.
He has a mind that loves to build things and to experiment. Even when he was a kid, he loved to build things, take things apart to see how they work. All of his work is created through experimentation, trying things, failing, trying again, failing better.
“What would you say about the concept of experimentation?” I asked him. “Especially when people are first starting out in something, they often feel that they need to know how to do it perfectly. I don’t think anyone realizes how crucial failure is. That dance of trying, failing, trying, succeeding – it’s a non-negotiable part of the process.”
Jake nodded. “It’s part of the success of the project, even,” he said. “I never really know what I’m doing. But sometimes a failure can lead to something that’s even better than your original plan.
“The concept of play is something I’ve been pursuing in my art. Some of it has to do with Dr. Evermor although I was always like that. We were like minded in a lot of ways. ‘This is a nice piece that you made, but where’s the trick shot?’ he’d ask, meaning where’s the play in it?
“I’ve never been attracted to the seriousness of art. For an adult, experimentation is a form of play and that’s the source of creation itself.
“Somehow real hard work and play have to be combined to express what I’m doing, or trying to do. One without the other is a joke.”
Jake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.