Saturday, June 30, 2007

Localism... A friend of mine died in about 1980 at the age of of 78. She had led a reasonably hard life, including homesteading with her first husband near Gilbert, Arkansas. Having grown up in an east coast sophisticated southern home and as a newlywed in a new community in the backwoods of Arkansas, she was surprised when her new neighbors sorted through her things, selecting things for themselves. When she protested, they explained their tradition... "What you bring is ours, what you make while you're here is yours." In essence, the price of admission to the local community was to give without condition. To be accepted required that you give of yourself totally and without reservation.

I've never heard this tradition described by others with regard the backwoods, so perhaps it was an isolated tradition, and someday, when I drive through the vicinity of Gilbert, I plan to ask.

It does make a difference, what things, what skills and resources you bring and give to your local community, and it is best when these things are given freely and without reservation.

There is a saying that when a dollar is spent in a community, that it can circulate many times, building the personal resources of all. But when a dollar is spent outside the community, the local effects of its circulation cease.

One of the best ways to reinforce your local economy is to put your dollars in the hands of local craftsmen and local food producers.

Here in Eureka Springs, we have a farmer's market on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and one of our favorite local farmers is Patrice Gros. If you were ever to visit Eureka Springs, Patrice and Karen Gros' Foundation Farm might be one of those special places you would find meaningful to visit. It is no museum, but a place where the wisdom of the hands is placed in practice and service, from the planting and harvest, to the wonderful lunches prepared there each day.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Localism... I would like to throw out another small example for consideration. My wife Jean bought a set of teak patio furniture. She researched it thoroughly, making certain that the teak was "plantation grown" and renewable rather than from endangered forests. The price was far less that what the same furniture would have cost if we had hired a local craftsman like myself to make it for us.

I had to spend the morning at home awaiting the delivery truck, then had to help the deliveryman to assemble it, as I noticed that he was attempting to force fit parts that weren't designed to mate. By being there, I saved Pottery Barn money from the damages that would have occurred, and saved us from the aggravation of sending it back and waiting for replacement. The most interesting thing was the amount of waste packaging left in its wake... A mountain of foam and cardboard was loaded back on the truck for transport to the landfill.

So what are the tradeoffs here? Jean got just what she wanted, delivered in a timely manner. It looked just like the furniture in the catalog, meeting every expectation at a reasonable price.

If the furniture had been made in Eureka Springs, there would have been some investment required of time in designing the work, and the craftsman's schedule to consider. If I had made it myself, months would have been required from start to finish. On the other hand, the amount of fossil fuel used would have been minimal. No overseas transport, no truckline, except for the delivery of materials. Instead of the money being spent on distribution of catalogs, shipping, packaging and overseas manufacture, the money, all of it would have stayed in Eureka Springs, building our local economy, and perhaps, most importantly, supporting a local craftsman in the growth of skill and experience...

Is that the balance point? The trade-off? the expenditure of fossil fuels vs. the growth of craftsmanship and art? It may seem like a stretch. But think about it, and let me know what you think. Can we change things on the planet by investing our lives in making beautiful things?

The photo below is a carved dogwood design on the ash entertainment center I built for our home. It was completed in 1985.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

When I first moved to Eureka Springs in 1976, it was the kind of small town America that most Americans had lost years before. From my $45.00 a month basement apartment, I could walk downtown to shop. In fact everything could be done on foot while my faithful dog Allie waited outside each stop. On a single trip through downtown Eureka, I could check my mail at the post office, buy groceries at the health food store and Clark's Market. I could pay my gas bill, electric bill and rent, buy auto parts at Otasco, jeans, shirts and shoes at Walker Bros. and hardware and lumber at Perkins Mill. A single trip through downtown Eureka Springs was also a social engagement. There were always friends on the same journey, and Mama Slick's very hippie coffee store was always inviting for stimulating conversation as well as coffee and breakfast.

Over the next few years, the essential service businesses moved to the highway. Clarks, Otasco, Perkins and Walker Bros. went out of business, abondoning the downtown to a few small galleries and a huge number of T-shirt and tourist gift shops.

In the meantime, Walmart in Berryville went through a series of expansions, completely outgrowing two locations and building a new "Supercenter" in a third. We have gone from an easy walk-about to the near necessity of modern transportation, and we have gone from shopping locally to the point at which literally nothing, no products or services commonly provided within a community are available in the historic downtown of Eureka Springs.

I'm not going to claim that all this hasn't been without economic benefit to our community and local business. I relate this story to point out that there have been dramatic changes in our relationship to localism that need to be explored. The photo above is of the Flat Iron Building. This is the third one erected on the site in the last 100 years, and this one was built after I moved to Eureka Springs.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The postcard below taken in Earle, Arkansas, Crittenden County, shows white oak logs as they grew in Arkansas prior in the early part of the last century. If you look carefully, you will get a sense of scale by finding the man standing in front of the railroad car. They don't grow logs like that in Arkansas anymore.

Tomorrow, in discussing localism, I will give a brief glimpse into my early days in Eureka Springs and what it can be like to live in a community where the word local can actually mean something.

A young friend of mine, Andy, came by this morning to buy boxes to take as gifts to Korea where he will be a Fulbright Scholar for the coming year. The boxes shown in the photo below are just like the ones he chose. Andy asked, "What are the woods? Are they local?" Yes, they are local. The linden or basswood comes from the area and the spalted maple from a tree that fell in Eureka Springs. The lines in the spalted maple come from the activity of fungus in the natural process of decay. I guess you can see that localism is not a new concept in the Doug Stowe wood shop.

For the past 30 years, I've been a local artist using local woods, making products to be sold in the local market, so, I think perhaps you will understand why the concept of localism is important to an understanding of the "wisdom of the hands." Globally informed localism is an important tool for restoring our communities, putting a stop to global warming, and building an environmentally sustainable civilization. Get a grip on the bar and hang with me. It is a subject that requires some patient exploration.

Localism... My apologies to those who have been attending the blog lately without finding much new to read. I've been working on small boxes. The dog days of August arrive early in Arkansas. They say, "it's not the heat, it's the humidity." And I would add it may not just be the humidity, it's also the bugs. And for some it might be the snakes. yikes!

Anyway, if you've ever seen a dog laying at the side of the road, just hoping a passing truck might stir up a draft... if you have enough imagination to feel what it's like to be that dog, then you know what the end of June can be like in Arkansas.

There is a subject in the news lately, "localism" and I heard it mentioned this week in a report on NPR about small business in France and their general resistance to globalization and the introduction of the "big-box store". I had heard localism mentioned earlier in the week when a local food producer made a presentation on gardening at our local UU church.

When something is really, really local, we say it is "at hand," so I think you may be able to grasp where localism fits the ongoing discussion in the Wisdom of the Hands blog. I plan to spend a few days on the subject, and would welcome your comments and participation.

Monday, June 25, 2007

This week the woodshop at Clear Spring will be quiet. I will be working in my home studio on small boxes to fill an order for Appalachian Spring Galleries in Washington, DC. I was in Little Rock this weekend to deliver the cabinets shown in the photo above. It is a project I've been working on during days I'm not totally engaged in the woodshop at Clear Spring. On this project, I worked from sketches provided by the customer, and the drawer pulls shown below were one of the many details left to challenge my inventiveness and creativity.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I went by the Clear Spring School woodshop this morning to see progress in Joe Doster's green woodworking class. Just to keep things jumping on day 4 Joe was getting the students started on spoons and bowls, introducing a whole new range of tools. Joe's class is an offering of the Eureka Springs School of the Arts

The following is from Dr. Felix Adler in 1880:

"There is no kind of work that does not become attractive when dignity attaches to it. Work of the hardest kind is performed every day by men of science, work which involves personal discomfort and the overcoming of physical disgust, and yet it is cheerfully done because of the intellectual dignity that elevates such work. Every physician renders, in his practice, menial and repulsive services, which no servant could be hired to render; and the physician, far from being disgraced is ennobled by his service. In the same way, we believe that the tedious work of the working people could be rendered more easy to them, and even elevating, if greater dignity could be made to attach to it; if only more intellect could be put into it. And we look to hand education in the school as a means of accomplishing this desirable object. There are certain mental operations that underlie manual operations. These the children should be taught, so that their manual operation may become transparent to the mental operations that underlie them."

For the past hundred years, the hands have been stripped of their dignity by a social system that has largely ignored their cultural contributions and their contributions to the intellectual development of our species. One of the purposes inherent in Educational Sloyd was to create a regard for the dignity of all labor. This meant that all children were to come to an understanding of the role of the hands in learning and making. Sloyd wasn't just for students from a particular economic or social class, but for all classes. If a person has never been challenged with making something, how can he or she see or understand the value of the craftsman's labor in that which has been made? If that value is not seen or known, how can dignity be understood?

Modern manufacturing methods from the industrial revolution stripped intellect from the process of making. Hands engaged in repetitive motion were to know nothing of the finished product or the overall process of its making or design. Educational Sloyd, unlike the Russian system asked that students be engaged in the making of whole objects, from start to finish and to thereby have a greater intellectual understanding of the maker's meaning and value. It was one of the subtle ways in which dignity of hand labor and craftsmanship was to be restored. Very sadly, Educational Sloyd in the United States fell out of favor in 1901.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Boston compromise... In 1893, Swedish Sloyd and the Russian System of manual training came head to head in a competition watched closely by the Boston Superintendent of Schools, Edwin P. Seaver. He said,

"The intention of the school committee... is understood to be to continue the experiment for perhaps two years longer, in expectation that there may be a clear demonstration from experience of the best means by which the wants of boys in city grammar schools may be supplied, whether by the Russian shopwork or by the Swedish sloyd, or by some combination and outgrowth of the two, larger and better than either."

By 1901 it was decided that by accepting some of the principles of Sloyd, but adopting the general practices of the Russian system, the best of both worlds could be attained, resulting in a school model that was widely adopted throughout the U.S. Unfortunately, many of the important principles of sloyd were either overlooked or misunderstood. One of the most important principles neglected in the Boston plan was the usefulness of woodworking in general rather than merely vocational education.

For an interesting insight into the history of manual training I suggest Charles A. Bennett's book History of Manual And Industrial Education 1870-1917

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

This week in the Clear Spring School woodshop, Joe Doster from Harrison is teaching a class on working with green wood. Today his students were learning to shape round spindles for stools or chairs using a shaving horse, draw knife and spoke shave. It is pleasant work. The aroma of the wood fills the air as shavings fall to your feet. But first there is a bit of rough hatchet work to be done. Scott wields the hatchet, Allen the drawknife in the photos at left.
No craftsman or artist works in a vacuum. No object arises totally on its own. No artist or craftsman develops without the support of his or her community. As a woodworker, my own life and career have been enabled by those willing to buy my work and encourage my growth.

When we buy something made by machines, we are helping the manufacturer to recoup his investment in design, equipment, materials and labor and make a profit. Resources move from the community in payment for the desired object.

When we challenge a craftsman to make something, and enable him or her to invest in materials, tools and learning and labor, we are also creating some very important wealth in our own communities. The objects made are a reflection of our shared desires. The growth in the maker leads to the potential of greater work and the development of culture.

One scenario, in which no investment is made by a community in the lives of its people prescribes a future of decline, degradation and torment.

The second scenario prescribes a future of greatness and a golden age of the arts.

We get to choose!

Monday, June 18, 2007

The role of the hands in learning touches on every aspect of life. As Frank Wilson said to me in an email recently, the hands are a mountain so large, they make their own weather. One can live unconsciously in the shadow of a mountain and never know the full depth and breadth of its effect. I recently met a doctor from Fayetteville who makes model ships, from the carefully shaped wood to the twisted fibers forming the lines and ropes, done in accurate scale. A real ship had thousands of feet of rope to secure and control the sails and rigging, and to make scaled rope for a model ship is not a simple undertaking.

At Clear Spring School we have experimented with making string and rope. Two years ago, we used fibers to make our own strings for yo-yos. This year, one of our traveling classes visited a museum where a rope making device was displayed, so we recreated it for use in the woodshop.

If we take a few moments and look around, we begin to see the loss of skills and understanding that takes place in our communities as new technologies displace old, and as we abandon our historic lives as hand-crafters for the dubious advantages of our lives as modern consumers.

The photo above is of a model of the United States Sloop Vandalia by Gene Andes

Saturday, June 16, 2007

It is so nice to be home. Instead of waking up in the morning to the sound of the L.A. Freeway, I'll hear the birds in the forest. This evening I sat on our stone patio and looked up at the towering oaks. They aren't redwoods, but they stand tall over our modest home in Arkansas. Tomorrow I unpack, run errands, return calls and emails and get a furniture project finished and ready for delivery.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I just finished my 5th day of class at the William Ng School of Fine Woodworking in L.A. I neglected to take pictures of the students' finished works. I do have a photo of one of my demonstration boxes back here in the hotel room where I'm hanging out until my 4:10 AM shuttle to LAX. There are lots of good memories of students growing visibly in confidence. While the box shown in the photo below is mine, the students returning home tonight or tomorrow have treasures of their own to share with friends and family.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

If you were to come by William Ng's School tomorrow, you would see the boxes shown at left being finished. At this moment, they are nearly ready for use. But as Otto Salomon said, the value of the carpenter's work lies in the usefulness of the object. The value of the student's work is within the student. It is seen, understood and expressed as growing confidence and competence. So if you show up tomorrow, you won't just see boxes. You will see confident students ready to take what they have learned and express it through their own skill and artistic vision in Portland, Phoenix, LA and other places throughout California. Not a bad week.
On Sunday, I flew into one of the world's largest airports into a metropolitan area of approximately 18 million to spend a week teaching 6 students how to make boxes. At night I turn on the television for a few minutes to see what's on... wondering whether there is anything available that isn't stupid, insipid, demeaning, insulting of the intelligence or violent and insultingly gross. Believe me, there isn't. Can you see how these factors might leave me feeling a bit out of touch with the broad expanse of American society in which millions are in actual fact out of touch with the creative essence of their own humanity?

It is a society of our own making. It seems to be our "unmaking" as we explore chemical and pharmaceutical means of modulating and controlling our internal gyroscopes... hoping to establish a sense of normality in what is extremely far from normal.

So, today I will teach a flipping story stick method for accurately installing hinges without even measuring. I'll teach how to make some simple inlay. And I'll demonstrate a bit of how to be in touch... with wood, with technique, with beauty, and with the human creative capacity that is far more real than what you see on TV, reminding perhaps for my students and for myself that being in touch is really about the hands.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Today at The William Ng School of Fine Woodworking, the students learned to cut box joints, hidden spline miters, two other joints and countless other things. At this point in the class, I can look in any direction and see that my students are "getting it". By tomorrow, I may be exhausted, and they will be ready to go on and on without me. As I was told one time years ago, "a teacher's job is complete when his students surpass him." Fortunately, I learn a few things from them as well!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

We just finished day 2 of box making at the William Ng School of Fine Woodworking in L.A. My students are making great progress. Monday we made sleds and demonstration boxes. Today students started boxes of their own. Unless you've done some box making, you may not know the importance of perfect miters. If you have done box making, you will know something of the satisfaction my students feel this evening. And we still have 3 more days to go! The photos at left are of some of my students at work.
The re-embodiment of learning... due to my participation in the first International Conference on Sloyd in Sweden last year, I am on mailing lists that supply information like the following:

The University of Art and Design, Western Finland design centre MUOVA has started a Leonardo da Vinci educational pilot programme, e-Craft Idea Tutor (e-CIT). The aim of the 24-month project is to develop and test a creative e-learning environment for the second grade handicraft and applied arts students and teachers in the EU area. The e-CIT project began 1st October 2005 and will last until 30 September 2007. The nine project partners are from six countries: Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, Portugal and Slovenia.

In the meantime, children no longer are folding paper, using brushes to explore the texture of paper in the application of color... no longer learning the geometry of their own bodies... and yet, it is the physicality of our own beings that defines the nature of our own universe. All the principles and elements of design emerge from our physicality. The language and concepts through which we frame our existence and explore the fundamental values of life, emerge from the elbows and angles of our physical form.

Computers are the big buzz, promoted by the commercial interests that are very hopeful of selling us more and more stuff, starting with computers themselves, that promise our liberation from the joys of making, and our enslavement of dependency and incompetence. Aren't we excited about it? I would look instead toward a re-embodiment of learning... paper, scissors, glue, clay, paint, cardboard and wood. Oh, and let's not forget fibers. It was the twisting of fibers that led to the making of yarn, rope, fabric, tapestries, knots, knowledge and human intelligence. And it all has to do with the body.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Today at William Ng's School of Fine Woodworking we made boxes. The first two were demonstrations, and tomorrow the students will begin making boxes of their own. Today we made sleds for cutting straight cuts and miters, and also demonstrated stock preparation and grain matching of corners. There is a great deal to cover. The photo above is of assembling a box using tape to "clamp" the corners while the glue sets.
After a long day of travel, I have arrived in Los Angeles. This is my first time in L.A., and I'll be teaching box making at the William Ng School of Fine Woodworking for the next week. L.A. seems just like it is in the movies. Fast and busy. It is different from Arkansas. I live in a town without stop lights. We don't even have a flashing yellow. In Eureka, there is no fast lane. No express. We have our own system of time. It is called Eureka time. I'll see if I can slow things down here for the next week so we can pay attention to our hands and make boxes. I may have some photos to show as the week progresses.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

It is not every day that a major art museum is built in America. And Arkansas hasn't been noted as a cultural center. That is about to change. Alice Walton, daughter of Walmart founder, Sam Walton, is building a major museum of American Art in Bentonville which is a town about 50 miles west of Eureka Springs and is the headquarters of Walmart, the world's largest retail store.

Crystal Bridges is still a few years away from completion. That's a good thing. Walnut takes a while to air dry. If you were to drive around the back of the Clear Spring Woodshop, you would find a tall stack of walnut boards, 18 to 24" wide, stickered and drying for later use.

I met Ms. Walton one year ago at an the Bentonville Art Walk and she asked, "Can you help me with my logs?" She was concerned that the logs harvested from clearing the Crystal Bridges site should be put to some kind of environmentally responsible use. I suggested that having children make benches for the museum would be a good use. The benches would serve the museum and connect children to it through work crafted by their own hands. I was asked to be a consultant on the milling and use of the wood, and in about a year and a half, we will begin making a bench or benches for Crystal Bridges Museum from the walnut lumber shown in the photo above.

It will be found tragic in the coming years that so few children are making things. Those who know little or nothing of their own potential for hands-on creativity will know nothing of the value of the wonderful work displayed in our nation's museums.

But the students of Clear Spring School will be able to visit Crystal Bridges Museum and find the markings of their own careful attention. That would be a wish I would hold for every child in America... that each could visit a museum late in life and see the lasting legacy of their own hands. Perhaps in our very small way, with two walnut logs, we are making a start.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Today I went to the ESSA end of session reception. The classes this week were life drawing, water color, hand-built pottery, and woodturning. When I arrived at the reception, the room was full of students and admirers and the sound level was over the top. Such enthusiasm! Students displayed and shared their best works to the admiration of friends and community. Each student took a chance on trying something new and exploring and expanding their relationship to material and its transformation. Each was rewarded by the feelings of satisfaction that arise when best effort has been applied and concrete results are attained. You could say that the room was full of art, but there was more... The students were filled with the pride of their accomplishments.

I am preparing and packing my bags for travel to Los Angeles on Sunday where I'll teach Box Making at William Ng's School of Woodworking June 11-15. I may be able to post some photos along the way. Check in, but if you don't find anything new posted, dig through the archives listed by month at right. You will find plenty there to keep you thinking about your hands. You will also find a link to ESSA, The Eureka Springs School of the Arts Sign up for something and join us this summer for learning and growth through your own hands.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Baby sitting... My wife had a meeting last night in our home and one of her co-workers brought her toddler, Nathaniel. I was asked to watch him and keep him safely out of trouble. He is at that hands-on everything age. A few months ago it would have been the mouth on everything age, but the hands-on age actually lasts a very long time. He would turn the tub faucet on and off and on and off and on and off. He would stick his hands in the water, laugh, and do the whole thing over again.

I told his mother Kate, that he's likely to grow up to be a plumber. Kate gave me a shocked look like she'd never considered the possibility and that maybe her hopes are for something more. I just explained that he has a very strong aptitude for faucets and if you were to look at him from behind, he's got the crack for it. Nope, that really wasn't funny.

If anyone were to doubt for one moment the learning that takes place through the hands, just spend a few minutes with Nathaniel. It is intense. Everything must be touched and manipulated, whether it's the VCR door where you cram in tapes (and other things when no one is looking), any object left at the right height, or anything that can be reached by climbing. Despite what some people think... that the growth of the brain comes through language, it just ain't so. The hands are the driving force in the development of human intelligence. Just ask Nathaniel. He can't talk but he'll show you a few things.
An article in Cabinetmaker Magazine raises the question of whether nail guns should be reclassified as a weapon, or whether a warning label should be required indicating that it could be dangerous in the wrong hands.

We all know that knives are regarded as weapons when throughout prior human history, they were important tools and a form of creative engagement... so why not nail guns as well?

According to the CDC, emergency rooms treated three times as many nail gun related injuries in 2005 as in 1991. This is largely due to the inexpensive models for sale in home hardware stores, being placed in the hands of consumers with little common sense, experience, or training in their use.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

So what happened to woodshop? Why have the last 30 years brought such a decline in hands-on learning opportunities in school? In Ft. Lauderdale, one of my students asked if it was because of insurance. But woodshop is less dangerous than basketball. Who in their right mind would propose an end to basketball? Not me!

The seeds of the decline of woodshop were planted long long ago, when the "Russian system" was chosen over "Educational Sloyd" or the "Swedish system." The Russian system was designed for the sole purpose of pushing students into industry with a few basic preparatory skills. It was widely promoted and supported by industry and government, because there was a huge need to supply the demand for a largely unskilled workforce.

The idea was reflected in what Woodrow Wilson proposed when he was president of Princeton University and before he became president of the United States.

"We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."

Educational Sloyd was different from that. It was completely out of step from the interests of the robber baron tycoons running the American economy. It spoke of the dignity of all labor and asked that all students have the experience, brain and character development that resulted from work with the hands.

As the American economy moved away from an unskilled manufacturing base, school woodshops became the dumping ground for unsuccessful students. The woodworking teacher became the teacher of last resort in the rescue of potential drop-outs already deeply alienated by an educational system designed to preclude their success. If you don't believe this, re-read Woodrow Wilson's statement above.

So who would become a woodshop teacher under these circumstances? Fortunately, a few. Unfortunately, not enough. Stripped of their original mission, woodshops have foundered. Shops close for a variety of reasons. One is that there are no replacement teachers. The other is that with a shrinking industrial base, woodworking is seen by some as a track to nowhere.

It is by re-examination of its origins that we gain a renewed sense of possibility. When Runkle at MIT and Woodward at Washington University started the first woodworking education programs in the United States, it was because they saw the value of woodworking in the development of the mind and thinking skills. They observed that their engineering students were crippled by their lack of hands-on experience. They saw that education left in the abstract would not meet the needs of the American people and that the training of the hand was essential to the training of the mind.

To that, I will add that the training of the hand is also crucial to the engagement of the heart.

During the summer, teachers and administrators are preparing for another year of school in which 30% of high school seniors won't be motivated to graduate. That is a problem of tragic proportions whose solution is simple and lies within our grasp. If you want to know more, read a bit of the blog. The archive includes a whole year of woodworking at Clear Spring School.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Woodturning teacher David Morris said something this evening that most woodworkers will understand. He said, just as you rarely see motorcycles parked in front of a psychologist's office, you will almost never see someone go in with sawdust in his (or her) underwear. That was a rather quaint way of saying what many of us know to be true. Working with wood is better than Prozac at maintaining a sense of mental and emotional balance and well-being. If you look around at what our abandonment of hands-on activities has done to our culture, you will gain a sense of the immense idiocy of our nation. You may even be inspired to change a few things. A trip to the woodshop may help. The photo below is from my class in Ft. Lauderdale over the weekend with the South Florida Woodworking Guild
This week in the Clear Spring Woodshop, we have a turning class with David Morris and 6 adult woodturning students. I stopped by this morning to see that they had what they needed, and to take a few snapshots like the one at left of a student developing his bevel cut on one of our Jet lathes. Other photos are of David sharing a technique in spindle turning. We never outgrow the need to be learning through our hands, and as more adults become drawn into the crafts, our understanding of our children's needs becomes greater as well. David's class is part of the summer program of the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. I am spending this week doing some shop work and preparing for my class next week with the William Ng School of Woodworking in Los Angeles.

Monday, June 04, 2007

I spent a weather related night in Chicago on my way back from Ft. Lauderdale. My flight had a 2 hour delay and my connecting flight to Northwest Arkansas got my bags but not my body. Next time I take a late in the day flight, I'm going to be sure to pack some fresh clothes in my carry-on. Photos of the workshop at South Florida Woodworking Guild are posted on the SGWG website The photo below was taken by Bob Eighmie, a woodworker/photographer with 30 years experience as news photographer with the Miami Herald.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Opening a box... The box shown in the photo is a demonstration box made in my class with the South Florida Woodworker's Guild. The box was make as a closed form, and then opened by cuts on the table saw after assembly, separating the lid from the base. Tomorrow I'll use a story stick and the router table to install hinges and then spend some time making inlay. So far the class is going well and the students are complimentary.

Friday, June 01, 2007

I am in South Florida to teach a class for the South Florida Woodworker's Guild. It seems that it rains whenever I visit Florida. So today the drought that has plagued South Florida for months is ended, and the news program on TV in the motel is wondering if the rain will end. But the rains today have nothing to do with my arrival. Today is the start of hurricane season.

It is so odd for me to be watching TV, and I am about to turn it off. It mesmerizes, so who can be blamed for succumbing to its power? Something will come on the news, and we think, "Oh, I'm so glad to know that!" And "what if we were to turn it off and miss something?" But it is better to read. It requires attention, and most things that are worth doing require attention. Attention is a skill that grows stronger with practice. To be required to apply one's attention consistently for any great length of time can be agony for those used to being entertained by rapidly moving images and rapidly changing context. So it is good to shut off the TV.

We live with distraction, and we are surrounded by people who offer us only their distracted selves... not their totality, but half-assed, half-caring, vaporous, partly present shadows of their true potential. What if we were to fully live, giving ourselves in total to the task at hand? It is why some of us are drawn to craftsmanship. Making something beautiful and meaningful requires us to offer more of ourselves, to the present moment and to the future.

Tomorrow at 8:30 A.M. Eastern we make boxes. I plan to show some photos of our fun.