Workshop Mastery with Jimmy DiResta: A Guide to Working with Metal, Wood, Plastic, and Leather - Jimmy DiResta, John Baichtal (2016)
The term “mastery” gets thrown around an awful lot these days when it comes to people who can make things. Our consumerist society has grown very soft in some ways because people can exist comfortably without ever learning to use a screwdriver, let alone a lathe. These folks, who have chosen to live very comfortable lives requiring no skills beyond shopping online and occasionally walking to the john, are therefore understandably impressed when they see an actual human being melt paraffin wax, pour it into a mold with a wick, and then after it cools, pop out the finished candle. “Why, that person must be a candle master!” When people erroneously attempt to lay such a label on me, having seen a simple table or canoe paddle created with my hands and my woodworking tools, I quickly correct them: “No, I can assure you that I am not to be called a master. For you see, I know Jimmy DiResta.”
Jimmy’s superpowers are those of a sculptor combined with a handyman with an inventor with a blacksmith with a woodworker with a teacher with you-name-it. He’s the love-child of Robin Hood and DaVinci and John Henry, wielding a sweetheart’s demeanor that dozens of his Lower East Side neighbors will eagerly tell you about, since he’s built something for damn near all of them over the years. Some pay, some just give him donuts.
I have known Jimmy for nine years now, and from the first visit to the last, I have learned something from him every time. His talent is more like a sickness. He can’t stop making things from every possible material, and some seemingly impossible ones—metal, wood, glass, stone, resin, leather, paper—ad infinitum. Not only must he make things as completely as he can, always with an expedience that is steady and un-harried, but he also must teach us all about how he does it.
This urge manifested itself in a few different television shows over the years (Dirty Money, Makin’ It, Lord of the Fleas), but as is the case with many bright talents, TV did not get along with Jimmy. I have experienced this clash myself. When the artist or the “talent” wants to work in a way that allows his gifts to fully flourish, but the TV company doesn’t care so much about that fulfillment as much as churning out remunerative 22-minute packages of entertainment, the two factions will ultimately not see eye to eye. Imagine making a bench in your shop and a producer is standing there telling you to “speed it up” to make the edit of the show quicker.
Jimmy has been making videos of his work and posting them online for many years now, and he has found the perfect medium. YouTube allows him to operate his very own TV channel, as it were, and curious newcomers as well as devoted adherents flock to see his work in droves. He manipulates his video cameras, his editing equipment, his social media, and the World Wide Web with all the elan he brings to carving a heart from padauk wood. I never fail to be inspired by the results of Jimmy’s most recent exploration. As long as he keeps learning, we lucky subscribers to all things DiResta will have the opportunity to follow him; and those of us with the good sense to sit in his classroom will be lucky indeed.