Below, is a transcript of an interview with Kagen Sound conducted 8/24/2018
Yeah so lets start out with the basics. Who are you?what do you do?
Okay. my name is Kagen sound. I'm a puzzle box maker. I've been making puzzleboxes since 2000. I've always always loved puzzles. So even before that, I've made a few, but, I think it became a full time job right after I graduated college. just started doing it, so that's been my career.
where did you learn your techniques? was it just through youtube? or?
Uh really, I'm. It's weird. It's like that American blend of being self taught like so many people I've run into and picking up woodworking from guys who never really made puzzle boxes, they made furniture and cabinets and things. so, over the years, kind of figuring out what i like to do, for myself, and then, I would say learning the hard way quite often. I never formally went to school for woodworking, or furniture design. and some ways i wish I had, and other ways, It was probably good I didn't, cuz I got to do my own thing. I always envied the people in Japan, who had a sort of almost guild system, where they could pick up and learn very specifically, more puzzle box and yosegi skills from a generation before them. So I never got to do that in America, but in some ways, I got to be very creative as well. So I think my own technique is just from, born out of the creative process, it's from trial and error.
Is that something you'd like to do? Go to Japan and learn from a master?
I would! I would really. I have a great deal of respect for the tradition of it and I would like to learn it some day. I do feel a little sheepish, when I teach a class and show anyone any woodworking technique, and it's more or less what I've discovered, and I think in some ways, its' really fascinating for students, but at other times, I'm sure there's times that I'm teaching something that I'm sure is a tradition that could definitely be a better method as well.
So I wouldn't mind learning more. I always , am. Anything woodworking related, never hurts to know the tradition, and your own personal, street method, basically. So I would consider myself a hack, or a street woodworker, or whatever you call it. there's a lot of guys like that out there. But I managed to pick the. I think I just got lucky that I was able to do it long enough to get good at it, and make a career out of it.
Would you say that developing your process is something like picking up little bits of traditional knowledge, and add it to your process?
I do. I kind of came full circle teaching these classes actually here at Anderson Ranch, and a previous class I taught at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship. I go in there, and learn just as much as the students, just by being at a facility that has all these traditional tools. And even a workbench that's traditional. Things like that really rub off on me when I do these teaching courses. SO that makes me appreciate the tradition quite a bit more. I also learned a lot of cool things when I rented work space in my first years and I shared studio space with a bunch of guys that just were "Do it yourself" types. And they had all sorts of neat tricky ways to make things. They sort of frowned at the school because they all had. There's almost like an underground woodworking community out there. I think a lot of it now is popping up on youtube. You have these really amazing youtube videos with just very clever solutions to things. But I think it's all sort of blending together now. Because you can go to school, and you can then get on youtube and learn both. And when I started out, that wasn't much of a possibility. I think there was much more of a divide between the sort of DIY mentality and the tradition mentality.
It's interesting what you were saying, that you found yourself doing it the hard way, not knowing the tradition, then coming back to the same realizations that might have been taught in a school or apprenticeship setting? Do you have any thoughts on the learning process of traditional learning?
I don't know. I kind of fell like one of the big advantages with "Doing it yourself". I think it's a wonderful environment to be creative. I think if you are under pressure to make something and it has to work and you need to get it done by a certain time, and you need to sell it to make money to pay rent and just survive off of it, it forces you into this sort of "figure it out", survival mentality. In some ways, a lot of my creativity was fueled off of that. I had sort of gotten used to some sort of high stress situations as I was younger. But for me, I also got to a point where the stress of certain projects got too much and can become almost, it can create an almost overly-stressful situation that can start to suffocate you. I would recommend to anyone who wants to get into any kind of craft or art, that that can be very good and motivating up to a point, but be very wary of , if stress gets to be a little bit too much, don't be afraid to ask for help, and collaborate. Those kind of things, I feel like you learn in a school setting, in a tradition setting. You learn to ask for help, and you learn to collaborate. You learn those really important communicating skills that help you maintain levels of comfortable stress so that you can work comfortably and make smart decisions.
So I would say, being younger in my 20s, and doing this, it was fun to just flail around, get stressed out, get charged up on that, really get creative. But there is a breaking point I think, for everyone. I don't think you can do that forever. I think you have to be carful not to over do that.
What do you think makes a Puzzle? What draws you to specific designs?
It's weird. I mean, you can sort of. All puzzles to me, seem to be functional things if you go back in time far enough.SO, a secret opening box was meant specifically to store something back in the day, or a thing like a safe, actually had a function. They became a little more whimsical, and entertaining as time progresses. Puzzles sometimes start out being this utilitarian object then becomes appreciated more from a, as a collected work of art later on. I think that's kind of interesting. You could sort of argue that a lot of things are puzzles depending on how you approach it. A person who wants to pick locks is gonna look at a lock and say that's a puzzle because they like to figure out how to break in to that sort of thing. Where as most people are not going to do that. A lock is a functional item to anyone else. Puzzles are really... They can be a lot of things. But I guess, now, In our day and age, we designate certain things as puzzles. We say "oh, a rubik's cube is a puzzles". It's designed to be just that. So there are certain things that are designed specifically to entertain your mind, to make you think and grow that way. I think. Yeah. I guess puzzles... they're weird. I guess they just kind of evolved. In that way. They started out as being ya know, security devices, then over time became appreciated as forms of entertainment, even more recently, being colle