Sunday, September 24, 2017

a steady application of attention

Yesterday I applied Danish oil to veneered boxes, and I'm pleased with how they've turned out. So I began working on 9 more. These will be sold or given as gifts.

The veneering is done as a form of play, and the process leads to three or more top panels made at the same time. Even though they are done at the same time, the process insures that each is unique.

The point of course is that there's pleasure in the making of each one, and someone might find some pleasure in keeping special things inside a finished box.

I am interested in learning whether the maker movement and the excitement that some participants find in it will lead to the long term development of quality craftsmanship.

As an example, a friend of mine, Larry Williams, has been making wood bodied planes for many years. His are the state of the art, and prized by collectors. He has only recently, and after so many years discovered design details in early planes that he and his partner will apply. The point is that watching a few youtube videos and doing what you see on screen is not enough to fully develop as a craftsman. Craftsmanship often requires years of doing the same thing over and over and applying steady attention to the improvement of your craft. It takes some level of dedication and commitment.

Will the resurgence of interest associated with the maker movement lead to quality craftsmanship? It may take 40 years to find out.

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

Saturday, September 23, 2017

quiet day in the wood shop.

Today in Northwest Arkansas we will navigate through an event called "Bikes, Blues and Barbecue" in which motorcycles and their riders will swarm on the highways and drink at taverns, and cluster in mass quantities to do so. Over 350,000 bikes and riders are expected, and my small town of Eureka Springs is one of the prime destinations.

The roads leading to and from town have hills and curves that make riding a thrill. One of our local pubs has a refrigerator semi-trailer parked outside to hold their inventory of beer. It will likely be emptied before the weekend is over, and we are hoping for a safe ride for all.

In the meantime, I have shop work to do. If Bike, Blues and Barbecue is like those in the past, there will be a steady drone of revving cycle engines, interrupted by sirens as the police and ambulances respond to difficulties. Again, my fingers are crossed for a safe ride by all.

I'm planning to finish boxes, start some small bentwood boxes, and will attempt to clean shop.

Yesterday some of my 4th, 5th and 6th grade students finished their models of the solar system. Some students were in a hurry to take their models home, but some will be left on display in their classroom as examples of student work.

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

lovely or useful things, music or at the very least spaghetti

Yesterday we had the premier showing of Eleanor Lux's Arkansas Living Treasures film showing her at work in her beautiful studio and talking about her work. There were about 50 people attending and enjoying the three films about local "treasures." We had the films showing in both the bench room and lathe room using the TV's we use for student instruction.

In remarks, I attempted to direct attendees to the necessity of making in schools. If students aren't making beautiful and useful things, let them at the least make music. If they are not making music, at the very, very least let them make spaghetti. Schooling should be infused with real life.

If you want students bored, disinterested, disengaged or disruptive, proceed just as we have with a regimen of isolated academic endeavor, thus keeping our children safely sequestered from the wonders of real life.

The photo shows a very simple way to provide an essential tool for elementary school wood working, a sanding block.

In Educational Sloyd, sanding was discouraged, as it was preferred that all shaping of wood be done with very precise, individual mindful cuts. Sanding obscurred those cuts. That level of craftsmanship would be lovely today, too, but children and adults rarely have patience for that level of infusion of mind and hand. The sanding block can be used to shape edges and make smooth, leading the student to observe with some greater care.

To make sanding blocks I use self-adhesive sand paper, cut with scissors as shown and folded around the edges of a piece of wood. These can be held in hand or secured in the vise.

Make, fix, create and encourage others to learn lifewise.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

straight and square

I got up early this morning and went to the shop, anxious to install hinges on boxes. (A task now complete.)

Today we have a mini documentary film fest at ESSA with three short documentary films will be shown featuring the three Arkansas Living Treasures from Eureka Springs. They say that hanging out with prize winners may lead to a greater probability of receiving the same award. Larry Williams, ALT of 2006, Eleanor Lux, ALT of 2016, and I have been friends for about 40 years.

Yesterday in the wood shop at Clear Spring School, I went over a few concepts with my students. Straight and square are useful math concepts that are essential to wood working, but will also be useful for other things.

The mini documentary film fest at ESSA begins at 6 PM immediately following Studio Stroll in which guests are invited to see what students have made during the week. You are invited. There will be a short Q and A following the films.

The cat in the photo is first rate, first grade work.

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The sensitivity of the child.

Children will spend a lot of time pretending through play, but this does not mean that they are insensitive to the implications of real life, or that they are incapable of discerning that which is real from that which parents and teachers have contrived for their distraction. For that reason, schooling should not be arranged to sequester children from reality, but to engage them safely in it.

Perhaps that's why students at the Clear Spring School enjoy wood shop so much. They are enabled to use real tools and real wood to make things drawn from their own imaginations.

I am planning a parent/child box guitar making class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking this next summer. I asked Marc if he had any particular advice on planning the class, as he has had a number of parent/child classes in the past. He advised,
"Just teach the parent/child class like any class. The parents will take the lead with the machines but the kids can do all the creative stuff."
I suspected that might be the case. It seems that the world is coming apart, with hurricanes, earthquakes and general stupidity at the top. There are some things we can fix, and some things not. But to take wood in hand and make something useful, beautiful or both allows one to feel for a few moments at least, that there we have some power and some control, in our own lives at the very least.

As we build the future one small gift of useful beauty at a time, things may add up.

The boxes shown in the photo are now ready for hinges, a lift tab, finish, then sale. At Clear Spring School today I will introduce first graders to the use of hand planes.

Make, fix, and create.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

this is your brain on art

It has 6 legs (or four arms and two legs) along with cat ears, and wings behind. What is it? Even the child who made it is not sure. Yesterday my first, second and third grade students continued making "superheroes."Some of my fourth, fifth and sixth grade students would have preferred that activity to making models of the solar system. But we started that project anyway.

We must make certain that children's brains are effectively engaged in in school. In the early days of manual arts training, administrators were concerned that exercises not be "purely mechanical," meaning that what the children did and made must involve the brain as well as the hands. Children's hands were not to be put to mindless (and mind numbing) tasks, like those one might find in industrial employment. Now we must demand that educational activities involve the hands as well as the brain. The hands and brain form a learning system in which each part refreshes and sustains the other.

Educational psychologists have long described the effect of art on mental performance. Now, through the use of brain imaging technology, we can see the actual effect.

Make, fix, create, and make full use of our most effective learning instruments: our hands.

Monday, September 18, 2017

solar system models, revisited

Today in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School, we'll repeat a project from 2009, making models of the solar system.

I have disks cut out to represent the sun, and large and small dowels to cut into discs representing the various planets, proportional to their real size. The students will drill holes mounting their planets, and will paint their work in their classroom or art class. This will likely be a two day project, finishing later in the week.

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