Sunday, December 07, 2014


Kindergarten Children and workbench, 1956
My show last night was hardly worth the effort but for the opportunity to hang out with artist friends and drink cranberry juice and vodka. I sold 3 books and no boxes. As one man confessed (not to me directly, but that I overheard) "these boxes are lovely, but I don't know what I'd put in one."

A friend of mine, and former student, Kathleen, has been teaching woodworking and making pet urns and crematory urns in Chicago. At least with pet urns and crematory urns, no imagination is required. You're dead by the time you need one. So perhaps I should make a change of course, and specialize in making something that requires less imagination.

So where does imagination come from? It's just like any other muscle. It grows strong through being exercised, and as we begin losing active imagination as early as kindergarten, and are carefully groomed to be complaisant and responsive consumers of standardized stuff, the market for creative work has declined in recent years.

The photo is from blog reader Todd Willmarth, and his uncle is one of the kindergarten kids gathered around a workbench in Spring Valley, Minnesota in 1956. The workbench is similar in height to the ones we use at the Clear Spring School. Thanks Todd, for a view into a more creative time.

When I visited at the University of Helsinki in 2008, I found my way (inadvertently) to the woodshop where Kindergarten teachers working on master's degrees were being taught to teach woodworking. The shop was right next door to the hall where Sloyd teachers were presenting academic papers (much more like social science research) on teaching various crafts. That small woodshop and the teacher's work there was the highlight of my visit and a thing that most conference attendees never saw.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Flex that imagination!! Don't lose heart. I've been using your box making techniques to make a pinhole camera for a young friend. And so from one example of imagination and creativity another will flower.

    Your post yesterday made me think about the nature of photographs and images (and imagination!!). With cameras in everyone's immediate reach and images right-clicked and saved without a thought, creativity fades somehow.
    Let's do our best to slow the creep into a world of plastic bins and selfies.

  2. Anonymous10:55 AM

    I believe that one of the largest obstacles to selling hand crafted items is that the general populace no longer sees value in the structure or art of an object. We have been conditioned to view everything as temporary and disposable. So much so that even the object's function is not all that important either. If we can switch back to making lifetime purchases, suddenly the structure, function and artistry of an object becomes important again.

    When I make something, I do so with the thought that it will last my lifetime and a few generations more. Hopefully. Not that anything I make could be considered fine furniture or art. But IMHO its at least well made and will endure.


  3. I guess that 30 or 40 years ago most women could use a small box for sewing appliances, but I doubt that many people sew in their leisure time any more.
    Maybe you should tell people that the boxes are specially designed so they will revitalize any electronic device that is kept in them. Kind of like a good nights sleep for a cell phone.

  4. We could make boxes for cell phones that amplify the vibration so that you can be assured of being awakened from a good night's sleep. Alternatively, we could make them sound proof and vibration free to allow you to sleep through.