GUEST BLOG: JT Van Zandt, The craft of boat building

John Townes Van Zandt returns home to Texas after a successful film festival tour with the fishing documentary “Low and Clear” and picks up where he left off in building the pristine “Sea Dart” fishing boat.

What a wonderful and exciting experience it has been to take our movie “Low and Clear” to multiple film festivals over the last couple of months. So far the movie has shown at Camden Film Festival, True/ False, SXSW, Dallas International Film Festival and will continue to show in Toronto, Telluride and other prestigious festivals. It has been very rewarding for everyone involved with the project and a huge validation for the film makers themselves who saw the promise in the story of my friend Xenie Hall and I with the dramatic contrast in our personalities, our love for fishing and the need to be outdoors. I would very much enjoy to follow the film to other festivals, but for me, I must get back to my wife and baby in Austin as well as my passion for woodworking. I manage the cabinetry and millwork division for Escobedo Construction which is a general contracting company made unique by our self performance of all trades in the construction process. Our company utilizes modern machinery and software, employs highly skilled craftsmen and is capable of innovating and building anything made of stone, steel or wood. One example of our capabilities is the “Sea Dart” which is the wooden watercraft that I fish from in the Texas marsh shown in the movie. We are now in the process of building 4 of these boats for customers and having been distracted by the film tour, I need to get busy completing these boats for the June deadline.

Boat building is a meditative process that requires much care and discipline. It is an ancient craft that summons man’s greatest capabilities. I say craft rather than art because the term artist has become over used and self proclaimed by too many these days as a shortcut to becoming a true craftsman. It is the responsibility of society to determine what art is. Van Gogh considered himself a painter, not an artist. The discipline of learning a craft requires years of tedious repetition until the exercise is second nature and becomes woven into the fabric of an individual. This is true for a multitude of professions: woodworking, welding, sewing, painting, film making, cooking etc… My thought on the decline of modern society is that few are willing to dedicate to this level of discipline opting for the easier route and thus trades are lost and quality is forgotten.

Quality is a commitment, involves respect and is an obligation to the resources that comprise the creation of any man made object. To slight that which could have been of quality is to throw away something valuable and is a true sin against the natural world. To intentionally design something of lesser quality in order to increase profitability is a perversion, is non sustainable and is certainly wrong. Sustainability has become a huge topic lately as the world’s natural resources rapidly diminish but in the beginning when man naturally created things to last, sustainability was a given. True sustainability is a result of creating quality goods that last and do not need to be replaced. This is my goal as a student of the craft of woodworking, it is the commitment of Escobedo Construction and it is the reason that we love, use and respect Filson products.

If you are looking for more fishing stories check out some of our other guest blogs.