Wednesday, June 25, 2014


"Selfie" taken for British Woodworking
I am home in Arkansas, having spent nearly 3 weeks traveling to Paris and various parts of Norway. I feel out of touch at the moment, but arrived home to find a copy of British Woodworking in the mail, with a short article mentioning the Arkansas Living Treasures mini-documentary films that the Arkansas Historic Museum made about Larry Williams and me. It is nice to see the word getting out about craftsmanship, and as editor Nick Gibbs notes, Arkansas has set an example that others might do well to follow. Recognize the values of craftsmanship, or we will lose them and observe a serious decline in human culture. (Has that happened already?)

My wife and I were impressed on our trip to Europe by a number of things. The folks of Norway were extremely nice, and most were able to communicate in English. That made things easier and less awkward for us. The landscape was beautiful.

People in both Paris and Norway seemed to be less stressed out about their children than we are in the US, and kids were everywhere, taking part in real life rather than being sheltered and chauffeured as they are in the US. Streams of kids in Paris were going to the Eiffel Tower on buses, the Metro and on boats, and it was the same in Norway. It was obvious in Norway that children traveling safely with teachers through crowds was routine. Teachers in Trondheim had a rope with paired rings on opposite sides so that the kids could grab hold and be led through crowded bus stops without getting lost from the group.

Of all the art I saw in Paris and Norway, nothing could surpass Vigelandsparken. In Paris people stood in long lines to see paintings kept at arms length. In Vigelandsparken, folks of all ages were allowed to engage directly with the works of Gustav Vigeland. Touch it, climb upon it. Take the experience of it into your own soul as shown in the photo above. One of the most famous of Vigeland's sculptures is that of an angry boy child. His bronze left hand is polished shiny by touch, and people from all over the world gather around him for the opportunity to grasp and console his angry fist.

I learned that Kindergarten in Norway compared to that in the US is both pre-school and preparation for school and lasts years instead of just one year. That was what Froebel intended. I also learned from conversations that parents are worried there, just as they are here, that their children are spending too much time with digital devices and too little engaged in real life. That's a thing I hope we can fix. The message is simple. We know that we learn best and to greatest lasting effect when we learn hands on, and yet we treat children as though they are exceptions and unlike the rest of us. They are not. They deserve the opportunity to do real things and to learn from the experience.

I have arrived home to a mountain of work. I have to make 70 inlaid boxes for delivery in July, and plan for my class with the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

Make, fix and create...

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