How did a furniture maker from Berlin become a YouTube sensation cutting Japanese Joinery? Well, in a genre populated by samey DIY instructables Dorian Bracht stands out. His films are put together as beautifully as the joints themselves. In a style that has more in common with arthouse cinema than typical woodworking videos.
Each episode of Joint Venture tells the story of a new creation. Whether a Sashiawase Komisen uchi (Pegged bridging) or a Shingiri daimochi tsugi (Dadoed rabbeted square scarf) Dorian takes you on a joinery journey. The craftsmanship is complex and it is very satisfying to watch the pieces of the puzzle come together so beautifully... beginning, middle and end.
No doubt about it the YouTube series has tapped into something that makes for universally compelling viewing. But who is the master behind the videos? And how did someone who was fascinated with graphic design, illustration and typography become a woodworker?
Recently Tom interviewed Dorian on the Interval to find out more. So where did it all begin for the spectacled, curly-haired maker with the creative twinkle in his eye? “I remember always being fascinated by a box with dovetails. I loved the geometric form but I never understood how it went together, it was very mysterious!”
When Dorian decided to gain workplace experience before studying design, an apprenticeship in woodwork made sense. He studied in Leipzig making Shoji doors under the guidance of a Master who had studied in Japan. As Dorian explains, “It was so much fun, I worked with a lot of solid wood, built a lot of furniture, and did all this cool woodworking stuff”.
So far so good. We know what happens next. The talented apprentice becomes an overnight YouTube sensation and makes shavings in his workshop happily ever after. Except that he didn’t. Not yet. It was a shock to enter the job world and find it was a production line of particle board, windows and doors, where time was money and speed was of the essence. Repairing the old buildings of Berlin might have been craft focused, solid woodwork but Dorian missed the freedom to be creative. It felt like this wasn’t his world after all, so he decided to return to his Plan A, Graphic Design...
... and that could have been where this story ended. But it wasn’t just the master who had witnessed the enthusiasm and potential of the young apprentice. His father
encouraged him to start his own company and commissioned an oak high board. The success of that experience showed Dorian there could be a creative future for him as a furniture maker after all.
Dorian set up shop in 2007 and he’s never looked back. His work is understated, practical and beautifully made. A delicate balance of creative aesthetic and precise craft. Dorian has translated the fine lines and structures of Japanese architecture and Ming furniture into his own craft language.
But self-employment as an artist or maker is not for the fainthearted. So what has Dorian learnt over the years? One of his key points is that you must market your work. It is not enough just to make cool stuff (and it never has been!) People need to hear about it, see it, want it and buy it. Social media offers more platforms than ever to do that and Dorian has shown just how effective it can be.
As to the future, Dorian says with a grin that his ultimate ambition is to be an 80 year old woodworking wizard. One who can cut dovetails so fast and so precisely that he’s finished before the router wielders have even found the right bit! I hope someone’s there with a camera to capture everyone’s faces when he does!
Dorian’s four tips for success:
● Don’t do what everyone else is doing, do what you enjoy and take it to the max
● Don’t sell stuff too cheap
● Always quality...in the aesthetic, the material and the craft,
● Learn from the mistakes and keep adding to your knowledge
Find out more...
Dorian’s Book Recommendation:
Classic Chinese Furniture: Ming and Early Qing dynasties by Wang Shixiang
YouTube - Joint Venture episodes and more:
Tom Sands Guitars: The Interval with Dorian Bracht: