Saturday, December 18, 2010

making days til Christmas...

They always talk about the number of shopping days remaining, and we have about a week. What they don't talk about is the number of making days, and we still have time. With tools you can make a beautiful box, or even several of them in a day. This is Saturday and you have one whole week left.
I will be working on small cabinets, hinging doors and applying finish. My wood shop is a wreck, so I will also be cleaning and getting things back in order so I can keep my head on straight.

Last night I saw a bit of the movie Wall Street, which my wife watched more attentively while I was coming and going and creating a spread sheet of a cutting list of cabinet parts. The movie was a no-brainer. We all know that greed has been oversold as the foundation of a healthy society. Our modern notion that greed is a VERY good thing started with Reagan. He wanted to strip society of the safety net, and leave every man standing alone on his own, and modern conservatives want the same thing. They have the notion that government is bad because it comes between man and his money. Those of us who partake respectfully of the services of libraries and take notice of the services provided by people in our communities see things from another angle.

There are things to be said about community. Last night we went to a free public performance in our City Auditorium, in which local musicians entertained simply for the joy of it. No greed in sight. As my wife and I looked around the concert hall, we saw hundreds of faces of people in our community who are known to us. At the Clear Spring School holiday program the night before, we looked around the room and saw hundreds of people known to us. Our beloved.

As we live in a time in which people are on the go, finding temporary anchors in connections that don't last, I would direct those who seek more than greed as their primary ambition to stay put for the holidays. Make a few small connections in your community, so that when you go out, you will know a few people. I have lived in Eureka Springs for 35 years now, and know the value of staying put and making lasting connections. You won't find research to prove my point, but since everything about life is an experiment, and there are no guaranteed results, you might want to give it a try and experiment by adding community to your own life. I'm not talking about adding friends on FaceBook.

One angle on life insists that it is all about the money. Another angle insists that it (meaning life) is all about friends. Some say it's all about friends with money, and you will know they are trying to fool themselves and are using one  in a misguided effort to get the other. In their ambivalence they are missing an important point. Money friends can buy are no friends.

Bernie Madoff's son committed suicide this last week. I pray that brought him some relief. I am sad for us all that some live with such despair. Much of it boils down to a simple choice about community. In which do we invest? The wrong investment can have lasting effects with the price being paid by generations. As my cousin Lawrence says, "even the worst of us can serve as a bad example." But then we would all hope to be so much more.

If you live in a wonderful community, make the best of it. If you live in no such place, build the community you need, by expressing friendship and generosity to ALL those real people you meet. Friends can get you through times of no money better than money can get you through times of no friends. Community is the most wonderful of human riches.

We've got one week before Christmas. Make, fix, create. Share with others this holiday season. If you are looking for a gift for a child that will last long after the batteries are dead and the bells and whistles of most gifts have become a bore, try Vaughan and Bushnell's Little Pro Hammer. Along with that gift, spend some extra time with your child over the holidays. Making things of useful beauty is an important building block in the foundation of community.

If you are curious about the role of craftsmanship in the development of community, which for me is a no-brainer, you can read a few of my earlier posts on the subject, here. Just in case you find yourself in a position in which you have no skill in making things, and have no inclination to try, there are still things that you can do. When you buy a beautiful and useful object made in your community you are encouraging your neighbors in the growth of their skills and raising their status within your community. We have the opportunity to foster each other's growth, or or damn well ignore it. You can buy things right off the shelf, one-size-fits all, lacking in personal personality, and lacking in meaning to your community. Or you can do much more. The choice is yours. My own collection of small boxes and furniture is available through galleries in Eureka Springs, Washington, DC and Little Rock, through the ETSY link at right, or by appointment here in my own home.

As you can see in the photo at left, I have attached the doors on my cherry display cabinet, inching it closer to taking beauty shots of the finished cabinet.


  1. Doug- I spoke to you a few years ago re' some ultra suede fabric. Now I have begun to visit your blog periodically for a good read. I appreciate your perspective. I have two projects for our 2 year old that are ready for finishing and I am savoring each moment that I get to spend being an elf in Santa's workshop. I also teach middle school science and find real truth in what you said yesterday in regards to what seems to be the walmartification, if you will, of education. Thank you for your honest perspective and leadership.

    A very happy holidays to you and your family,

    Chris Sagnella - CT

  2. Chris, thank you for your comment. I am particularly interested in hearing from science teachers who read the blog, as I feel that the fundamentals of material science are discovered through the crafting of objects, and thus, it is not enough for educators to look at the manual arts as something having no relationship to science, but rather as something integral to STEM education.


  3. Doug-

    I agree wholeheartedly. I focus all of my energy on developing activities that enable my students to learn the subject matter through handling or creating something. I do not know a great deal about STEM, but I have read some of the initiatives. I find that when my students are purposefully engaged in a hands on activity they learn the subject matter easier and it becomes more meaningful. One reason it's easier for them is that they are without the distraction of a teacher being in their way, I can simply guide them while they take the lead. To me, hands on activities challenge my students to think more and can help to motivate students to want to understand scientific phenomena, because now they can relate it to something real. In my opinion, the manual sciences "dovetail" nicely with the material sciences.

    All the best-