Wednesday, July 26, 2017

day three of pocket boxes.

I am ready for day 3 of making pocket boxes at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. Students already have several boxes in the works. Today I will get them started on two more designs.

Yesterday we made inlay. It's fun.

Make, fix and create.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pocket boxes

Yesterday we went though some design lessons, some slides on the making of pocket boxes, and then began making both bentwood and band sawn boxes in the ESSA pocket box making class. While I only have men in this class for some reason, woodworking is not a gender specific sport. In fact, many of the leaders in the manual training movement were women.

Some may recall Ednah Anne Rich, from my earlier writing. She was the author of an incredible book,  Paper Sloyd. I had known that she was educated in Sloyd at Gustaf Larsson's school in Boston, and then at Otto Salomon's school at Nääs. An inquiry from a reader led me to research by her married name, Edna Rich Morse. She and her many contributions to manual arts training in the US had been mentioned by Charles A. Bennett in his book History of Manual and Industrial Education, 1870-1917. You can read just a bit about her remarkable story here.

My point is that Educational Sloyd in its time, played a role in bringing women forward into positions of leadership in education.
"In 1909, the passage of Assembly Bill 1234 established the Santa Barbara State Normal School of Manual Arts and Home Economics. Ednah Rich was president. The school provided professional training in manual arts for careers in teaching. Rich was appointed to the State Board of Education, the first woman to hold such a post."
It had become commonplace to put boys in woodworking and girls in home economics or textiles, and some might think (wrongly, in my opinion) that the purpose was to enforce gender divisions in society at large. Certainly, the intent in Educational Sloyd was not to "keep women in their place." The photo above is one that I acquired on my visit to Nääs in 2006. It shows teachers at one of Otto Salomon's lectures on the history of education. An open mind might notice the number of women involved.

The building in which the lecture was held was the gymnasium where students were also taught to teach gymnastics and physical fitness. Educational Sloyd, in alignment with Kindergarten and the progressive movement in education, believed in the education of the whole child.

Make, fix, create and assist others in learning likewise.

Monday, July 24, 2017

experts answer

How do you start kids working with wood? What's the first tool to recommend? Lee Valley interviewed folks at a woodworking show. The important thing may not be what tool you start with but that you start. Give them tools and allow them to create.

Today I start a 5 day class at ESSA on making "pocket boxes." Photos of progress will be shared during the week.

Make, fix, create, and allow others to love learning likewise.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

getting ready for pocket boxes.

I have six students for my pocket box class at ESSA that begins on Monday and have room for two more.  If you want to join that class call first thing Monday morning and be prepared for a week of fun. I still have a bit of work to do setting up, and still have an even greater amount of work to do refining the ESSA wood shop.

Yesterday I put up some wall cabinets in the bench room that were left over from my book Building Small Cabinets. One will  hold safety gear and the other small hand tools.

My next class will be Creative Box Making at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, starting in two weeks. There are still limited openings in the class if you want to attend.

One of the great benefit of classes here in Eureka Springs is that this place is so lovely.  It is a place to visit in its own right, and hundreds of thousands do each year. You can come and attend classes and your companion will not be bored while you do so. There's fine dining, fine shopping, and a truly great library.

A good video on the making of iron holdfasts can be found here: It shows a possible point of collaboration between our ESSA woodworking and black smithing studios. I have some of these for my own work bench.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others learn likewise.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


The Chinese have successfully teleported an object to space according to a brief article in Time Magazine, using and further proving the concept of quantum entanglement. The idea of entanglement had even left Einstein scratching his head. But now, scientists speculate that quantum entanglement will have all kinds of applications, including computers that can communicate without possibility of hacking. At some point entanglement may enable large objects to be transported through space instantaneously. (or not)

None of this is unrelated to education. The object of education should be to entangle students in the real world, not to sequester them in idleness and artificiality. So Friedrich Froebel used field trips, play with blocks, crafts, gardening, songs and music and care for small animals as tools to deeply engage students in learning (and in life) and to lead them into a full entanglement in holistic thought. Woodshops, as envisioned in Educational Sloyd were to connect the child further with his own creative and formative capacity, a process launched in Kindergarten.

Just as two photons can be introduced to each other and thence be connected through life, even to the furthest expanses of the universe, the same can be true for human beings. We can be led toward the development of powers that may be inexplicable to those who have not been led toward that same point of entanglement. The point of Froebel's kindergarten was to lead children toward a sense of wholeness that Froebel described using the term Gliedganzes or interconnectedness. One might just as easily use the term from modern physics, entanglement.

Entanglement may offer an explanation for what we commonly call coincidence. For example, earlier in the week, I got an email message from Joe Youcha from Alexandria Seaport Museum asking me to help promote his new books on using boat building to teach math. On the same day, I received an email from another person at the same museum asking to set up a appointment for a telephone interview. Neither was aware that the other was contacting me. Was that coincidence or entanglement, or what Black Elk described as follows:
Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Our tepees were round like the nests of birds and these were always set in a circle, the nation's hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.-- Black Elk
I shipped a box guitar yesterday to Woodcraft Magazine, but kept one here for my amusement. Today I will prepare for my week long ESSA class on making "pocket boxes."

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others will become entangled in their own creativity.

Friday, July 21, 2017

studio stroll...

Each Thursday afternoon classes at ESSA things slow down just a bit at the end of the day for  "Studio Stroll" to which members of the community are invited to drink wine, eat snacks and see what students have learned during the week.

Yesterday, I attended a meeting to plan next year's programs, and I attended studio stroll at which professional woodturner Judy Ditmer did a demonstration for guests. I had not realized that woodturning could be performed as stand up  comedy routine. But Judy had the whole group laughing (and learning) for over 20 minutes. I hope we have her on our schedule again for next year.  Word will get out.

I am nearly done with my box guitars and am preparing for my own ESSA class in making "pocket boxes."

There are still spaces available in that class if anyone at the last minute chooses to attend. We will spend the week making very small boxes in a variety of designs, and no prior experience in woodworking is required. Students will carry home new skills, new friendships, and very small boxes to serve as evidence of learning and to share with friends. Register here: If you join next week's class, you will be able to share your own work during a studio stroll of your own.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others love learning likewise.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


Those who develop new technologies are often narrowly focused and may lack an understanding of the overall culture and character of humanity at large. Focus too strongly on one thing and you'll miss others.

Yesterday I listened the the radio program 1-A in which an artificial intelligence proponent and expert described the impact of technology on the arts. He described how artificial intelligence, (a-i) would put "art" in the hands of the masses, making all things so easy for all.  With A-i and without carefully cultivating skill of hand and without knowing or learning anything but the manipulation of the device, each of us could be an artist without exerting any effort at all. In fact, we could set our devices in motion, creating art, and just check in on their progress once in a while to observe what we've "done."

And I ask the question that one engaged in the tactile arts must ask.
What is the impact of this proposed future on our humanity? 
We set ourselves apart from the mundane and from each other by developing expertise, skill and creative intellect.  Our creative vision that we hope to share with others comes from within our uniquely meaningful experience. The character and intelligence of the individual human being rests upon having done difficult and demanding things. When all of our judgment, our character and our intelligence has been off-loaded to the artificialized intelligence of our digital stuff, what will remain of us?

That is the future that stands before us now. We can reject that dismal life by engaging in the arts. Make music with a real instrument. Make something real from wood. Paint with a brush on canvas something you witness in real life. When you are done, try again and attempt to improve what you've done.

A vision of that future when very little remains of us was imagined by E.M. Forster in his short story, The machine stops. I have shared this short story before with readers because it is prophetic.

It was written and published in 1909

Today I will string guitars and finish the photography and text.

Make, fix and create...