Saturday, December 06, 2014

You begin.

While some will be at the mall or on-line chasing a few goods, others will be in the pursuits of better, in their kitchens baking bread or cookies, or in their sewing rooms or workshops, crafting themselves. Their skills, either new or freshly honed will add little to the economy, but add great depth to the warmth of our human culture.

Some of my work set up and ready to sell.
Today I'll show and sell my work at the Lux Weaving Studio on White St. here in Eureka Springs. Hours, 4-8:30 PM. I'll have boxes, books and some small furniture for sale. In addition, some of my earlier commissioned work can be seen today during the Eureka Springs Preservation Society's Tour of Homes, in the home of Susan and Jim Nelson.

The following is a poem by Canadian poet Margaret Atwood, a favorite sent to me by a new friend.
You Begin

You begin this way:
this is your hand,
this is your eye,
this is a fish, blue and flat
on the paper, almost
the shape of an eye
This is your mouth, this is an O
or a moon, whichever
you like. This is yellow.

Outside the window
is the rain, green
because it is summer, and beyond that
the trees and then the world,
which is round and has only
the colors of these nine crayons.

This is the world, which is fuller
and more difficult to learn than I have said.
You are right to smudge it that way
with the red and then
the orange: the world burns.

Once you have learned these words
you will learn that there are more
words than you can ever learn.
The word hand floats above your hand
like a small cloud over a lake.
The word hand anchors
your hand to this table
your hand is a warm stone
I hold between two words.

This is your hand, these are my hands, this is the world,
which is round but not flat and has more colors
than we can see.

It begins, it has an end,
this is what you will
come back to, this is your hand.

Margaret Atwood 1978
I think I have a new favorite poem, too.

When my  4 year old great niece was here last week, she colored like that. I gave her a small lantern that, being cheaply made, ceased to work. I used my tiny screwdriver and some duct tape to fix it as she watched patiently. She learned that it is fun to fix things and no longer such a terrible thing when new things break. It becomes the excuse to look inside.

Make, please fix and please create... With the world going as it is, our children will each need each of these skills.


  1. Wonderful story on NPR the other day( referred by Ben Kellman, woodworking teacher in Billerica, MA):

    “……Starting With Structure

    Jennifer Mueller does know. She's a professor at the University of San Diego, and, for 15 years, she's been studying creativity.

    As she told me about the key ingredients necessary to teach creativity, I suddenly realized that they are exactly what I remember from Whitney's wood shop.

    Mueller says you have to get rid of this stereotype that creativity is unleashed.

    "There is this impression that: Give students freedom and they'll be creative. And what we know is that they need some structure upfront," says Mueller.

    They need a well-defined problem — like building a piece of furniture — and they need to know the constraints and the range of possibilities.

    That echoes something Whitney said: "You start with a stick. And they've never started with a stick before. And the next thing you know you're making decisions."

    At that point, he says, the student doesn't even know the possibilities.

    "So that's my job in a lot of ways, just to help people discover the possibilities. The potential of a stick of wood."

    Think about it. That's a recipe for creativity. One you can apply to all sorts of pursuits: a lump of clay, an unknown disease, a string of computer code.

    Whitney illuminates the possibilities but says he never picks from among them. That's the student's job. Jennifer Mueller says that's exactly what the research says is important.

    It's Got To Be Fun

    Another key ingredient for creativity is having fun — being intrinsically motivated.

    "When people feel enjoyment of a task, they are more likely to explore and they are more likely to go in new directions," says Mueller.

    It's that way at the Dartmouth wood shop. No classes. No requirements. Everyone is there because they want to be there.

    Whitney says he has a sense of why people keep coming back: "You feel good about yourself," he says. "You feel good because you did it."

    A native New Englander, Whitney played hockey, dropped out of Yale and sold dictionaries. He says he simply fell into woodworking, and recalls the first thing he ever made: a couch.

    "It was plywood," he recalls. "We were young, we were foolish, and we needed a place to sit. I liked it just because I had put it together in ways I'd thought of by myself."

    And that, he says, felt good.

    The Uncertainty Of Something New

    But creativity involves something we don't always feel good about: uncertainty.

    "Where there is no answer, there is no clear answer, we don't like that type of uncertainty at all," Mueller says. "We really hate it."

    She says this is hard for students: that blank piece of paper. It's hard for businesses: Will people buy the product? Uncertainty is hard for everyone, but research shows it's key to thinking creatively.

    Whitney says most people who come into the shop have no experience designing things or working with the "big bad machines" in the shop. So, he says, the whole process starts with people taking a big risk….”

  2. very nice, Jonathon. Thanks