Thursday, September 19, 2019

more blocks

Yesterday my Kindergarten students made small lidless boxes, and my middle school students helped in the assembly of oversized Froebel blocks for the school playground. The addition of more blocks will add to their building capacity.

Today my elementary school students will work on small pivot lid boxes. Yesterday they began putting strings on the looms we finished earlier in the week so they can begin weaving. In the meantime, carpenters are making great progress on the addition to the new Clear Spring School woodshop in the Poe Hands on Learning Center.

Make, fix, create and assist others in learning likewise.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

billions in art

Need a safe climate controlled cataclysm proofed place to hide both your wealth and your art? In absolute privacy and so that it can be traded secretly on an international market without ever facing duties or taxes? And so that you alone can ever see it?
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/09/13/arts/artport-storage-new-york.html
What a strange world of dramatic polarization we live within. Would it not be better if our world's wealth was more equitably distributed?

Today my Kindergarten students will be making small boxes and my middle school students will be helping me make very large Froebel blocks.

Yesterday the carpenters began building an addition to the Clear Spring School's new wood shop and golden doodle Rosie loves a good stick.

Make, fix and create. Adjust schooling so that all others learn likewise.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

brain gain

An opinion piece in the New York Times suggests important things are happening in rural America. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/17/opinion/rural-america.html Folks are returning from the huge cities to find better lives in the small towns they had once sought to escape. The article claims this phenomenon as a "brain gain" for small towns throughout the US. It can be a truly good thing, affecting the balance of power in the US and bringing progressive ideals to the "heartland."

Today in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School students grades 1-4 will be making small boxes, practicing skills with hammer and saw. Students grades 5 and 6 will be helping me build more large Froebel blocks. I've prepared parts for assembling 8 more blocks giving us two full sets of gifts 3 and 4 in mighty size.

In the meantime, I've been making small pulls on the table saw to use on Jewelry boxes, using an interesting technique as shown in the photo. And I received word that the editing on my Wisdom of the Hands Guide to Woodworking with Kids book is nearly complete.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling so that children learn lifewise.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

three days

I'm mentioning this report for the third day in a row because it is important regarding what we're doing with education. https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2019/09/03/1821936116 There are reasons that schooling sucks. One is that students are groomed for laziness by schooling that requires them to be passive learners. They actually seem to prefer to sit at desks and listen inattentively to teachers at the head of the class. Active learning informs a student how little he or she actually knows and may be perceived at first as a threat.  It leads them out of their complaisant zone. I'm reminded of the student who says, "I know that," but then when asked to demonstrate what he or she knows, faces the truth of how little he or she can do. You can watch someone play the cello. But take one in your own hands and see what you can do with it.

Another point is that teachers find classroom management much easier if the kids aren't doing anything. There are no materials to supply or put away at the end of class. And there are no limits to the number of students you can crowd into a lecture hall. That's great for administration, as it greatly reduces the unit cost of providing instruction. Passive, lecture based instruction simplifies the job of classroom management, making the teacher's job one of maintaining student discipline, not maintaining student learning.

So there are lots of reasons to ignore the necessity of providing active, project based learning. They boil down to one thing. Keeping schooling cheap. Let's ask some essential questions: Do we care about kids enough to give them the education we know works? Can we find reasons to invest in them to assure the future we deserve? By keeping schooling cheap, we waste lives and time by ignoring how children and adults learn best.

So here's what we need to do.

  1. Reduce class sizes.
  2. Train teachers to actually engage kids.
  3. Teach teachers to understand that hands must be engaged to deliver maximum effect.
  4. Place the arts at the center of education.
  5. Demand that school facilities be expanded to allow each to become a laboratory of learning.
  6. Follow the lead that Friedrich Froebel established, putting play in full force.
  7. Allow schools to reflect and enhance the character of their communities.
No, this will not be accomplished in the next three days.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Friday, September 13, 2019

That little spinning ball

How learning works... It requires attention, does it not? Otto Salomon who was responsible for the spread of Educational Sloyd throughout the world through his Sloyd training school at Nääs, described the ineffectiveness of classroom teaching. A "class" of students is an abstraction in which the learning needs of individual students is suppressed.

Yes, you can have a certain number of bodies assigned as a class, but how many minds will be present at any given time while you as a teacher blather on with your lecture. How many of those minds can be brought equally to the same subject material at the same time? In the actual age range of a first grade class, there will be students as much as twenty percent older or younger than the rest, so even if all were coming from equal homes and equal experiences, the idea of a class of students is only for the convenience of administration and not to respond to the necessities of intellectual engagement of each child.

The little spinning ball that shows up at times on your computer while you are waiting for something to process, load or connect, is an apt metaphor. Just imagine a classroom teacher surrounded by spinning balls. Some are processing something already said, attempting to connect it with something already present in the learner's experience. Some are attempting to connect, having no clue where to grab hold. Some, having found nothing to connect with in anything you've said, have moved onto more pleasant and productive thoughts. And then there's the necessity of the wandering mind. In order for new information to find a secure fit in the thinking of a child (or adult) the mind must wander to find connecting points. During a lecture you might expect about 20-30 percent of attendees to be intellectually in attendance at any given time.

This  particular piece of research from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is particularly important: https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2019/09/03/1821936116 It is crucial that we extract education from the clutches of lecture based traditional schooling.

I'm fortunate in having my elementary school students combined in two groups with grade levels 1-4 in each group. This allows me to better assess and observe the workings of mind. Some are completely new to the wood shop, but come from active homes. They are better prepared to engage and do than those who are less actively engaged.

I watched the democratic debate last night and was pleased that the subject of education came up. There is a very strong recognition that we need to restore dignity to the teaching profession and better compensate teachers for the contributions they make toward the advancement of societal goals. They touch on every front... our international competitiveness, the safety and security of our communities, the character and intelligence of our kids and their economic success upon which we also depend.

The photo shows one of my second grade students building his loom. It is remarkable how much he's grown over the past year.

Make, fix, and create.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Real learning vs. misperceptions of learning

Yesterday workers poured the slab for an addition to the school woodshop in our new hands-on learning center. And my Kindergarten students made "color wheels." The color wheels were a hit, and the kids enjoyed demonstrating how they worked when they got home. How do I know that? A parent sent me a video.

Today in the wood shop I'll be helping one of our students plan his eagle scout project, and I'll be helping our upper and lower elementary school students finish making looms the are making for study of world cultures.

An interesting study suggest that despite strong evidence that active experiential learning is far more effective, students and faculty have misperceptions that the opposite is true. https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2019/09/03/1821936116 The following quote is from the synopsis of the study.
"Comparing passive lectures with active learning using a randomized experimental approach and identical course materials, we find that students in the active classroom learn more, but they feel like they learn less. We show that this negative correlation is caused in part by the increased cognitive effort required during active learning. Faculty who adopt active learning are encouraged to intervene and address this misperception, and we describe a successful example of such an intervention."
This of course has to do with the difference between knowing about the world, and knowing how to actually navigate one's way in the real world. The German word Kentniss refers to the latter. You can put a kid in a lecture hall, and they may be able to recite in the short term a few of the things the professor had said. Put a kid in a laboratory of some kind, be it a chemistry lab or a wood shop, and the lessons persist. Both in the hands and minds, and the things a Kindergarten child makes from real wood will be kept for a generation or more.

Make, fix and create... Assist others in learning likewise.

Monday, September 09, 2019

NAIS/ISACS

The Clear Spring School is an accredited member of the National Association of Independent Schools  (NAIS) through its regional organization, the Independent Schools of the Central States (ISACS). Today we meet with a representative of ISACS to formally launch our every seven year re-accreditation process. The accreditation process is important to us because it allows us to measure and observe whether we actually say what we do. It also keeps us connected to a larger body that works to further education in America.
"What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon it destroys our democracy.–John Dewey.
I'll suggest more along the same line. What the best and wisest educators want for their own students they also want for all children. And so the Clear Spring School is not just about teaching our own kids, it's about establishing a new model through which we may serve all kids.

During a previous cycle of accreditation review, the visiting team wondered aloud, "We can see whether or not they're hands-on as their mission statement suggests. How do we measure whether or not the Clear Spring School meets the second part of its mission, that of being 'hearts-engaged."

A few minutes on campus convinced the visiting review team we were not only hands on, we were also "hearts engaged." You recognize joyfulness when you see it, you feel it and are infected by it. And so that's why the Clear Spring School is one of the best kept secrets of American education. You have to set foot on the campus to feel its full effect.

In other words, come visit and dispel all doubts. That hearts are engaged is expressed through joyfulness. And there is no reason at all that children should suffer through learning.

The student in the photo is drilling holes for making a loom. Dowels will fit in the holes and allow for the warp to be wound back and forth from one end to the other. The jig on the drill press is one I made that allows the stock to be moved sequentially. It avoids the mistakes that come from measuring alignment and layout.

Make, fix, create, and adjust learning so that all others have the opportunity to learn lifewise.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

inspiration lab story

I submitted a story from the Clear Spring School to the NAIS website, inspriationlab.org. about building Froebel blocks and their use at the Clear Spring School. I believe that children should be empowered to have effect.

It's wonderful that parents, teachers, and community members invest in building carefully engineered playgrounds for kids, but we must not overlook and ignore what kids can do for themselves. The story can be found here: http://inspirationlab.org/story/9906

Make, fix and create...

Friday, September 06, 2019

the discovery of cool things

Being surprised heightens our senses. It calls the mind and body to attention. It has physiological and emotional effect. And so, when delivering a piece of furniture, I try to have built a few surprises in. It's best when things continue to surprise, over a period of time.

There are good surprises and some not so good, so when the customers who ordered the table told me that it had exceeded their expectations, I was pleased. I seek purposely to violate the rule against mixing business and pleasure as I know that my best work comes when I work for friends whose trust I dare not offend.

This is not to say that forgiveness is not important. We know from lessons learned from our own humanity that nothing emerging from the hands of man is ever perfect.

Schools suffer from routine. We need to stir things up. Woodworking education is a way to accomplish that.

I am in the process of cleaning my wood shop. I began classes at the Clear Spring School on Wednesday. We had a ground breaking photo yesterday of the addition to the new Clear Spring School wood shop which we hope to occupy during the second semester.

I'm planning to add more blocks to our Froebel sets 3 and 4 on the Clear Spring School playground. They continue to be used with excitement, as you can see. While the blocks are being used as an obstacle course, they are also being continuously rearranged at the same time. Every time I arrive on campus they are in a new configuration. What do they learn from the blocks? One important lesson involves cooperation and collaboration.

Make, fix, create and extend the opportunity for others to learn likewise.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

a big delivery...

I was grateful yesterday to arrive at the destination for the delivery of the maple table to find four strong men waiting to carry it into the house. The table's new owner had arranged with the contractor who had rebuilt his house to have his crew on hand.

Just as the table barely fit inside the trailer, it barely fit around one tight corner moving into the living room. But slowly, slowly, and carefully, we snaked our way through.

The table is at home among a collection of lovely works by other artists in a setting that overlooks the  Arkansas River. I am grateful to have had a chance once again to do lovely work.

How do we assure that American creativity lasts into the next century? By asking folks of all ages to create. It must begin in preschool and Kindergartens and before that even in our homes. It must involve mothers and fathers and teachers all being taken off the standard educational routine of preparing for standardized tests, and being relaunched with a renewed effort toward the arts.

For those who collect art, let's reward them with the recognition that they change lives. And for those who make art, let's reward them with the recognition that their spirit is essential to us all.

Make, fix and create... Assist others in learning likewise.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

a perfect fit.

The photo shows loading the silver maple table into a small trailer for the trip to its new home in Little Rock. My friend and sometimes assistant Greg is installing the lag screws that attach the top to the base.

The top fits into the door of the trailer with only about a quarter inch to spare, and fits the trailer in length with only enough extra room for blankets. The perfect fit and lots of padding and straps should keep it safely in place for its journey today.

I want to describe for you the ways that buyers encourage the growth of craftsmanship, character and intelligence. That seems to be a message that's little understood. Perhaps setting you thinking in that direction alone will help. Is it not obvious? And if it's obvious, why do we not choose to create craftsmanship in our own towns and cities? Is it that we'd rather just cheap out?

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, September 01, 2019

fun guide and more

Our Golden Doodle Rosie is featured in the newly released Eureka Springs Fun Guide: http://eureka.news/themencode-pdf-viewer-sc/?file=http://eureka.news/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/FunGuide_September2019.pdf Look for her on page 21. On page 12 you'll find information on the artist's studio tour, November 1 and 2 during which my studio will be open to guests.

In the wood shop I've been making bridle joints for 32 looms that our students will use to weave textile patterns from around the world. Thirty two looms require 128 joints, each cut with precise fit.

School woodshop begins on Wednesday. Making bridle joints has offered another use for spacers. I found that I can use spacers to quickly set up and use a tenoning jig to form the mating parts of a bridle joint marrying two pieces of wood together at a right angle.

Each of the two spacers is thicknessed to fit exactly in the dado cut. The mouth of the bridle joint is cut with one spacer in place. The inside face of the bridal joint, forming one side of the tenon is cut with two spacers in place, and both are removed to cut the opposite side. I plan to make a set of spacers that will be use rare earth magnets to hold tightly to the body of the tenoning jig. An assembled joint is shown in the photo.

Make, fix, and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Friday, August 30, 2019

young hands, young minds.

I've noticed in my teaching that it's often difficult for older adults to grasp things that come easy to to the young. It's best not to become discouraged when trying to emulate what I do. I've been making boxes and furniture for over 40 years and before that had studied woodworking in junior high, then pottery in college, and my dad bought me a shop smith for my 14th birthday. Facility with the hands and mind are best developed at an early age in which they are fresh to the world.

Getting an early start in your creative work gives you an advantage. Children learn quickly what it can take adults years to learn, and that they'll never grasp quite so easily or completely as the young. This applies to both hand skills and to what are thought of as "skills of mind," and it's idiocy to think that they are actually different things.

When we listen to a well trained pianist we are not instantly convinced that we can do the same thing. He or she will make it seem easy, but it will indeed not be as easy as it appears. It takes practice, and those who arise to the highest levels of the art, are most often given a very early start.

Woodworking takes place at a slower rate. That you can actually see the hands moving more slowly does not mean that practice was not required. In other words the same rules apply. It's best to get an early start.

I had made a suggestion in the blog and to some experts that the Quipus used by the Incans to record transactions and history were to be read not only by looking at but also by running one's fingers through the patterns of knots and thereby sensing the vibratory patterns they present. Quipus were, after all, described as talking threads. Were earlier scholars taking a purely intellectual approach not listening? https://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com/2018/12/what-if.html Now some experts are exploring this idea based in part on interviews as to how they were read. Unlocking their full mystery will be a challenge for untrained hands.

I have been asked by Fine Woodworking to be an instructor in their 2020 Hands-on Tampa Event. The maple dining table is upside down and ready for the lag screws connecting base and top to be drilled and installed.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

table base

I have been meeting with my fellow teachers and planning for the beginning of my school year. In my own shop, I've assembled the table base as you can see in the photo. It is extremely stable, as is necessary given the size and weight of the top.

As you can also see in th photo, my shop is a complete mess and ready for a thorough cleaning when the large project is delivered and out of the way.

Make, fix, and create. Adjust schooling so that others have the opportunity to learn lifewise.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

inspirationlab.org

"We ask you to imagine Kindergarten classrooms where teachers are trusted to use their judgment about what's best for each class. Imagine a future where love of learning, not test-based performance, returns to the heart of our children's very first education experiences." -- Brookline, MA Teachers letter to their School Committee about returning the joy to kindergarten
And of course, the joy of learning need not stop at the Kindergarten level. If it does, we've really screwed up.

In Finland they say their success in education has to do with two things. They train their teachers well and then trust them to teach. In the US, we are lacking in two areas, training and trust.

This link, http://inspirationlab.org/?s=%22clear+spring+school%22 is to a couple articles I published a few years back on a website sponsored by the National Association of Independent Schools. I'm grateful to play a part in a school where I've been trusted to teach.

Make, fix, create and assist others in learning likewise.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

cool catches

Cool magnetic cabinet catch. The photo shows a very strong magnetic catch for small cabinets using a rare earth button magnet. One part is embedded in the edge of the cabinet and the other drilled into the cabinet door.The nice thing is that these are unobtrusive.

When double doors are used, a stop must be made unless the doors overlay the top or bottom.

The cups are intended to fit in holes drilled in the cabinet. The magnets go in place covering the screw.

Put the magnet in only after both the cup and catch plate are screwed in place. The magnets are very strong and do not like being removed from the cups. And that is nearly impossible after the cup is embedded in surrounding wood.

The plate is mounted to the door, either surface mounted or sunk into a ½ in. hole drilled 3/32 in. deep. Of course the easier option is to surface mount. The cleaner, more professional look requires a hole.

How do you locate the hole to be drilled in the door for the catch plate?

You can use a ½ in. dowel center between the cabinet and door to mark the center of the hole fin the door. Put the dowel center in the hole in the cabinet and close the door, thus marking the where the catch plate must go. Another approach would be to put the cup in inside out with double stick tape on the exposed surface. The double stick tape will stick the cup to the door, allowing you to mark the proper location for the non-magnetic plate to fit. You can also do the same with hot melt glue.

These, except for the screws are available from KJmagnetics.com  They are not sold as a set so you have to order the individual parts.

I've been meeting with teachers to plan the coming year in the school wood shop.

Make, fix, create and assist others in learning likewise.

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Monday, August 19, 2019

hands and self...

The features editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette asked me if there was something special about woodworking as a tool in education. "Of course," I said. And there are special wonderful things about it. Not only does it provide observable outcomes that can be shared with family and community, the products of woodworking in school are often useful. And those products (and skills) do get used.

While crayon art may be put proudly on the refrigerator for display until the next art that comes home crowds out earlier efforts, the products of wood shop are more practical. When the child sees what he's made warmly accepted and used, it informs the child of his or her usefulness in the home, and not merely as a contributor to home decoration held in place by refrigerator magnets.

When done over a period of months or years, woodworking provides evidence of learning and growth in concrete form. That growth is witnessed within by the child and also by others in the family. An early work may go home with bent nails and misaligned parts poorly sanded, but it takes very little encouragement for the child to improve his or her own work.

Does this mean that other arts and crafts are not also important? No! I say. But if a school has limited resources as most do, woodworking is a powerful activity to unleash toward crafting a creative environment in education.

Here are just a few points.
  • If children do not learn hand skills at an early age, those skills and proficiency with the hands become much more difficult (and expensive) later to develop, and likely never to the same level of ease and proficiency.*
  • These hand skills do not reside in the hands alone, but also have profound effect on thought itself. 
  • They create the sense within the child of his or her own place in the community of man: that of being a creator and not merely a consumer of cheap stuff. 
  • They create an appreciation of the things one might discover from earlier generations in museums and the like. 
  • They create a sense of the child's own investigative powers. Hands-on, children can test reality, and confirm or disprove what they are taught.
  • Where the hands lead, the heart follows.
If we want to create a society of do nothings, American education is generally on the right track.

Make, fix, create, and adjust American education so that all children learn likewise
.
*Hand skills are very much like language skills. It is easy for a child to develop fluency in various languages in very short time and much more difficult for an adult. What it takes children months, it can take adults years.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

depressed kids?

Claiming that "We have ruined childhood," this  OpEd from the New York Times tells what conventional schooling is doing to our children's mental health. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/17/opinion/sunday/childhood-suicide-depression-anxiety.html
"The role of school stress in mental distress is backed up by data on the timing of child suicide. “The suicide rate for children is twice what it is for children during months when school is in session than when it’s not in session,” according to Dr. Gray. “That’s true for suicide completion, suicide attempts and suicidal ideation, whereas for adults, it’s higher in the summer.”
Surely we could do something to fix things. We have a model for better learning and social engagement at the Clear Spring School, but then most politicians would prefer that schools warehouse kids. An interesting point of the OpEd is that children turn to screen time because they have fewer real opportunities to engage freely with their peers and with real life.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

old dogs, new tricks?

Yesterday I shaped the cross members that attach the table top to the base. It was a job quickly done that relied upon past experience doing similar work. I used the band saw to make the angle cuts and used the jointer to clean up the flat surfaces and remove the marks from the saw. Now with routing, sanding, drilling of holes and the application of Danish oil, the parts will be ready to install.

You know the saying, that you can't teach old dogs new tricks. It's not true. You can still learn to do amazing things. But old hands and old minds do not learn as quickly or as easily as the young.
Sir James Crichton-Browne was called the last of the great Victorians. His views on the relationship between hand, brain and body are described in Gustaf Larsson's book "Sloyd,"1902 as follows:

"The eminent English scholar and scientist, Sir James Chrichton Browne, tells us that certain portions of the brain are developed between the ages of four and fourteen years by manual exercises alone. He also says, "It is plain that the highest functional activity of these motor centres is a thing to be aimed at with a view to general mental power as well as with a view to muscular expertness; and as the hand centres hold a prominent place among the motor centres, and are in relation with an organ which in prehension, in touch, and in a thousand different combinations of movement, adds enormously to our intellectual resources, thoughts, and sentiments, it is plain that the highest possible functional activity of these hand centres is of paramount importance not less to mental grasp than to industrial success."

Again he says,"Depend upon it that much of the confusion of thought, awkwardness, bashfulness, stutterings, stupidity, and irresolution which we encounter in the world, and even in highly educated men and women, is dependent on defective or misdirected muscular training, and that the thoughtful and diligent cultivation of this is conducive to breadth of mind as well as to breadth of shoulders."

"The nascent period of the hand centres has not been accurately measured ... but its most active epoch being from the fourth to the fifteenth year, after which these centres in the large majority of persons become somewhat fixed and stubborn. Hence it can be understood that boys and girls whose hands have been altogether untrained up to the fifteenth year are practically incapable of high manual efficiency ever afterwards.

"The small muscles of the eye, ear, larynx, tongue, and hand have much higher and more extensive intellectual relations than the large muscles of the trunk and limbs. If you would attain to the full intellectual stature of which you are capable, do not, I would say, neglect the physical education of the hand."--Sir James Crichton-Browne
Fixed and stubborn. Those are good terms, but depressing ones. We think of stubborn as being an attribute of mind. These terms may explain why a few readers of the blog take some offense when I wander slightly off from the favorite subject, woodworking. But woodworking is not an isolated thing. As much as we might like our shops to be a refuge and a retreat from the woes of the world and the occasional horrors we learn from it, woodworking also offers the power to engage deliberately and creatively  in making the world a better place. We do that through the making of useful beauty, and sharing what we do and what we learn with others.

As we transform wood, are we not also capable of transformation? As we reveal beauty in the wood, can we not show the same in ourselves?

Make, fix and create. Share with others


Friday, August 16, 2019

Fitting more parts.

Yesterday, in addition to staff meetings to establish schedules for the coming year, I worked on the table base, fitting cross members that will be bolted to the table top.

Woodworking is planned for every child K-12, each having woodshop twice a week.

The table parts are connected to each other with half lap joints, each routed or sawn 1 in deep. The joints in the cross members were cut using the sled on the table saw, gradually widening the cut by moving the stock left to right in 1/8 in. increments. The joints in the beam were formed using a template and a template following router bit. The new parts will be tapered, routed, sanded and oiled before they are bolted in place.

I had a reader complain that he hoped I would refrain from ever making political comments so that he would be more comfortable to continue reading the blog.

Excuse me, please. Woodworking and woodworking education are both political acts. They lead us beyond complaisance and toward service to each other. Done well they lead us more deeply toward an appreciation of the natural world and it's wonders, and thereby lead us toward protectionism. That sense of protectionism  would naturally lead us toward concern for a few things. Like: Stopping global warming. Protection of endangered species. Protection of national parks and preserves. Thus developing within us: An appreciation of diversity. An understanding that we are to be stewards of both the natural environment, and human culture.

If my occasionally mentioning my own opposition to certain political figures who've created policies in opposition to my own values bothers anyone, I hope they will look more deeply into their own scheme of things. You can learn a lot from crafting wood, but it helps to start with an open mind.

Make, fix, and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

what would you do?

What would you do if you had the power to save the life of a child? If you were sitting at poolside and a toddler fell in, would you attempt to rescue that child whether you could swim or not? The supreme court made the decision that corporations are people just like you. But corporations fail to show it.

Take Novartis, for example. They developed a drug that with a single dose could save the life of a child suffering from spinal muscular atrophy. It is a rare disease. The price that Novartis charges is 2.1 million dollars per dose, making it impossible for any but the most affluent parent to afford. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/13/opinion/novartis-drug-cost.html

If you were sitting at poolside, would you ask the toddler's parent's net worth before making your own plunge to the rescue?

Working with one's hands creates a sense of agency, but frames a sense of moral duty. When you struggle to make things that are useful and beautiful in service to self, family and community, you may have also developed compassion as an attribute of your character. If you have the power to do good then you must do so, whether you are sitting on a corporate board or more directly at poolside.

Make, fix, and create. Provide others the opportunity to learn likewise.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

this day...

My wife and I returned yesterday from the memorial in Bloomington Indiana for my sister Sue. I'm tired, but it's time to get ready for the launch of the school year at the Clear Spring School. My meetings with administration and fellow teachers start on Wednesday, and I have a lot to do to get the woodshop ready for the return of kids.

The profile article in the Democrat-Gazette turned out to be a lovely piece of work, well outlining parts of my life. https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/aug/11/douglas-stowe-woodworker-finds-wisdom-i/

There was one thing that I wish had been covered in greater depth: the ways in which the hands and their use in learning builds the heart-mind connection. It does so, in five distinct but interrelated realms. It affects how we feel about ourselves and strengthens the intelligence and sense of interconnectedness that resides within us. It builds healthy, happy, families and also builds the intelligence and feelings that resides within them. Healthy, happy, smart families are the foundation of great communities, great communities are the foundation for great nations and you can see that even the broad expanse of human culture is based on the foundation laid and continuously maintained by our very human hands.

This is not to say that machines don't have their effect. They are impersonal, careless, powerful, wanton, and we can do best for ourselves when we take a more delicate approach.

Try gardening with a backhoe. What will you get? Will you thence live in a place that offers the sensitivity your humanity will enjoy.

I enjoyed talking with cousins at my sister's memorial, and some of the conversation got deep. My cousin Michael, in agreement with my hands first approach, noted that the most important things we do as human beings are those things we actually do. We've been made complaisant and powerless like observers of a train wreck. But when the dust settles, those of us who've cultivated a relationship with our hands will guide others toward a more wholesome life.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

profile article

Today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, our statewide newspaper contains a profile article about me. It can be read on-line here: https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/aug/11/douglas-stowe-woodworker-finds-wisdom-i/

The article is very complimentary and well written and includes quotes from my wife Jean, my daughter Lucy, and our ESSA director Kelly McDonough.

I hope at the article directs a few folks to consider their hands.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

being poked with sharp needles.

Today at ESSA I have my fourth day of making small cabinets. We also have a naming ceremony honoring the Windgate Foundation for their help in building our school campus.

Linsey-woolsey is a coarse pioneer cloth woven with linen and wool, the linen forming the warp and the wool the weft or woof. The linen makes the cloth strong and lasting, the wool makes it warm, but because it was usually made from local fibers and dyed with available vegetable dyes, it was looked down upon by those wanting only new stuff. Now  a cloth made of linsey-woolsey may have historic value. One unique aspect of linsey-wooley is that it can be repaired through felting. Felting is the process through which felt is made, by poking wool fibers with short barbed needles which force the kinky fibers of wool into a tight interlocking mass.

I have given some thought to the meaning of living in a small town. Linsey-woolsey is a term that applies. When first arriving in a new place you rest upon the surface of community like a patch. After some years, provided you are like wool and have some personal warmth, you become woven in, felted into the warp and weft. Your integration in to community may take a bit of poking with sharp needles. 

Time if you let it  has a way of removing your coarse edges and working you into the depth of the cloth.

As a culture, we are buzzing like electrons, skipping from one orbit to the next, and I would like to offer to my readers a strange notion. We live in a facebook, blogger age in which we can befriend or be befriended by others who will always remain unknown to us. It demands nothing of us but high speed internet and a device of some kind. But there is a real world out there where encounters can run deep.

Eureka Springs is a linsey-woolsey kind of place. And my wish is that we may each find a place like it. 

Make, fix and create... Assist others in learning likewise.

Monday, August 05, 2019

small cabinets.

Today I begin a small cabinets class at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. It was suggested to me that ESSA is like a Clear Spring School for adults, and those who missed out on the kind of early education that Clear Spring School provides.

Come check it out. Studio Stroll where you get to see what's going on in this week's classes will be at 4 PM on Thursday afternoon. We'll have demonstrations in wood turning and small cabinet making. This week we also have a naming ceremony for the building that holds the woodworking and iron studios. 4:15 PM.

The small cabinet shown in a key cabinet from my book Building Small Cabinets.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others learn likewise.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

the epidemic of gun violence.

We are facing an epidemic of gun violence in the US, and our friends around the world must be mesmerized by the stupidity of our legislators, who stand by with thoughts and prayers and no action. Yesterday separate incidents in Texas and Ohio left at least 29 dead and the lives of others shattered.

Republicans and some Democrats have been made powerless by their ideology and their fears that gun rights advocates will punish them at election time if they stand up against guns. Families and communities are forced to stand by helplessly as politicians refuse to even debate the issue.

Some blame it all on mental health. We also have politicians who fan the flames of ideology and race who set things on edge and pit folks violently against one another.

Can we not yet admit that American fascination with guns is a mental illness that affects us all? Guns provide a perverted sense of agency that would have been better provided by engagement in the creative arts. All of us need to feel as though we have power and some sense of control. And we can get that though the creation of useful beauty, thereby strengthening our social fabric, and leading us toward a more civil and just society.

Today I make a brief presentation at the UU fellowship in Eureka Springs, on how the engagement of the hands can help process grief. When the world grieves for victims of gun violence, politicians  offering "thoughts and prayers" is like saying, "Hey bud, I really feel for ya. So sorry. Better luck next time." When will they take concrete steps to fix things or make things better? I would have thought that the murder Kindergarten students at Sandy Hook would have pushed things over the edge and forced politicians to act, but I failed to realize how deeply and badly corrupted our politicians had become.

Make, fix, and create. Encourage others to learn likewise.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

hands and grief.

The eyes may be the "window" to the soul. The hands are the more direct connection. When we hold hands, our human care and compassion are shared with each other. When does one know when to hold tighter or let go? Hand holding can hold some awkward moments when one party's grasp lingers too long or too tight, and yet we come into the world alone and will leave the same in a time and situation that's unique, though it's been repeated a billion times.

It is odd to me, how little attention we place on our own human hands. Perhaps that's because in order to attain the efficiency in their use necessary for human survival, they take a back seat in our conscious effort, allowing the brain to claim the illusion of command. For example, the first time we hold a chisel and attempt to direct it to make a cut in wood, the chisel feels awkward in hand, (how do I grip this thing?) and yet with practice and more practice the craftsman goes about his or her work and the hand serves its apparent master.

In actual fact, the hands and brain co-evolved in the earliest age of man as a system in which the hand trains the mind and the mind trains the hand in coequal partnership in the development of human culture. To think of hands and brains as isolated from each other is foolishness whether you are a humble tradesman or the most powerful person on earth.

I lost my younger sister Sue to pancreatic cancer on July 10. I held her hand tightly until it became apparent to both of us that it was time to let go. And so, then what? As a box maker, I've gone through the same routine before. When my father passed away from cancer in 1977, I was a potter here in Eureka Springs and made a raku box to hold his ashes. When my mother died in 2010, I made a wooden box for the burial of his ashes at the site of my father's grave. As we stood there at my father's grave, my nephew David and I taking turns with the shovel, I dug deep and we heard the sound of the shovel's steel scraping on fired clay. We knew we'd found the right spot and the right depth that my mother's ashes and my father's would be united.

This is of course a simple work in progress. The start of tomorrow's presentation on crafting through grief at the Eureka Springs Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 11 AM on Elk St.

Make, fix and create.

Friday, August 02, 2019

welcome to the hand tribe.

One need not pour over statistical analyses to begin to understand the relationship between hand and mind. The hands are in fact, attached to our own bodies and are available for direct observation. We have been trained to be reliant upon outside expertise, (What do those experts thinK?) and yet, we are each capable for observing what the hands do in our own lives. I grant you license to do so.

I was sending the features editor from the Democrat-Gazette a list of folks who have been helpful to me in refining my thoughts. One who came to mind is Dr. Frank Wilson whose book The Hand, was on the short list for a Pulitzer Prize a number of years ago. It describes how the hands shape language, culture and even the brain itself. Dr. Wilson and I became correspondents on the subject of Educational Sloyd and my attempts to restore woodworking education in schools. That led to my being invited to a couple hands conferences in which a number of Dr. Wilson's friends gathered to construct a strategy for the return to an emphasis on hands-on learning in American education.

According to Dr. Wilson, the hands and brain co-evolved as an educational system, sharing equally in the development of human intelligence. If you are awake to your own body long enough to observe this simple relationship between hand and mind, and then trust what you've witnessed and then act upon what you've learned, you'll be a member of what Dr. Wilson described as "the hand tribe."

Let this be your invitation. The group is not exclusive. In its full potential, it could include the whole of humanity. And now in this digital facebook age of distraction, membership is more important than ever.

Make, fix, create and assist others in learning likewise.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

make, fix, create.

Yesterday I had an interview with the features editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. She's writing a profile article that will be in the statewide Sunday paper on August 11. She wanted me to tell the story of my life.

I talked about the hands and how they shape character and intelligence. The hands have always done that. Anaxagoras had stated it clearly when he said that man is the wisest of all animals because he has hands. So what I share is not something new that I discovered myself. In fact, you can learn the same principles by observing your own life.

When and under what circumstances did you learn something that had a profound effect on the direction of your own life? Think, reflect and learn. Just as a friend alerted me to the fact that my brains are in my hands, you can test the idea yourself. Then act upon what you've learned. Make yourself useful in service to what you know.
"The hand is the instrument for perfecting the other senses and developing the endowments of the mind itself." -- Sir Charles Bell.
In other words, to fail to educate the hands is also to fail in the development of the mind. And so to teach well, one must make the decision (and the effort), even in rebellion against the established order of education, to teach hands on.

The box shown is for my sister Sue's ashes. I'll rout the bottom edge, fit a bottom, sand it, and apply a clear finish that will bring the color to life.

Make, fix and create.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

finding ease.

There have always been those who hope that by tearing things down they may build themselves up.  It's a strategy used in both religion and politics to divide us and lay waste. Extreme attention to individuality places us at odds with each other when in fact we are deeply connected and would feel more at ease if we knew it.

Even the dinosaurs tended their nests and cared for their young, and so we need not have any sense of supremacy when it comes to nurturing our kin.  At my family reunion last week, some of my cousins and I marveled at the mess our generation has made of things, with the natural environment being our largest concern. What will it take to set things right? For the last hundred years, the primary focus of politics has been growth. For the last thousand years, the primary focus of religion has been dominance. Shall we instead place our focus on stewardship of the environment, and care for each other? We'd be better for it.

I am supposed to make a presentation next Sunday, August 4 on turning grief into action, and thus using action to process and utilize grief as a push toward growth. It is motivated by the loss of my sister Sue to the pancreatic cancer that cut her life short. How can we possibly make sense of such things? We cannot. But we can direct our energies into making good use of what ails us. We are often left during times of grief, wondering what we can do. But there is always something one can do.

This morning I 'll meet with the board from Holiday Island Community Church to talk about a new cross for their altar. Then I pick up the engraved top panel for a box I'm making for my sister Sue's ashes. Next I assemble the box and glue up its parts. The photo shows it in a trial assembly with the corners held tight with tape. Still this morning I'll meet with the features editor from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in living and learning likewise.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

comfort in a turbulent world

Today I'll meet with a contractor about expanding a garage to become the new wood shop in our new hands-on learning center at the Clear Spring School. I'm also getting my thoughts together for an interview tomorrow with an editor from the Arkansas Democrat-'Gazette, our state-wide newspaper. In addition to that, I'm beginning to prepare for my week long ESSA class in making small cabinets, building a cremains box for my sister Sue's ashes and sanding the underside of the maple table.

Some of these things are for the head, some for the hands, some for both. The hands bring comfort in a turbulent world.

Yesterday I received a packet of racist fliers in the mail in response to a letter I had published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that pointed out that freedom of religion and representative democracy were important parts of our constitution. The packet was sent with my name and address printed in a trembling hand with no return address. It included a very brief venomous note that I'll not share. We are living in difficult times in which the worst of people's inclinations are being put in full display. We have a president that stokes people's fears to keep his grip on power.

Where's wood working when we need it most? It settles the nerves. It teaches important lessons in forgiveness. It lifts our intentions toward the creation of useful beauty. It empowers us to create. It directs us toward service to each other. It connects us with the beauty of the natural world with the possibility that we might be moved to protect it.

Make, fix and create.

Monday, July 29, 2019

a next meeting.

After a first meeting intended to create an art guild in Eureka Springs, we held a second at the top of the Crescent Hotel. The balcony at the top of the Crescent is a wonderful place to get an overview of the city of Eureka Springs, so it was the perfect place to sit as we raised questions about the future of the arts.

That (in 1976) was the first meeting attended by Louis and Elsie Freund, Hal Mallet, Henry Menke and JoAnn and Hank Kaminsky. All of these folks became important in the direction of the guild. I should take time to introduce you to each. Perhaps I can do that later.

The first thing we had to do was name the new organization. Henry Menke wanted it to be an organization of the arts which in his mind was something apart from crafts. As a craftsman (and Henry was as well by my estimation) the word crafts in the title was essential to me. Henry wanted to distinguish between crafts and "fine crafts." JoAnn Kaminsky  insisted that the title not be guild of artists and "craftsmen," but "craftspeople." In agreement with JoAnn that "craftsmen" would be viewed as sexist by some we chose to name the new organization "The Eureka Springs Guild of Artists and Craftspeople."

And so with the organization named we began a journey, planned to file papers for incorporation, and then attempted to define the character and purpose of the organization. There were some who wanted the group to be one that would focus primarily on marketing the works we produced. They wanted the group to become exclusive and insisted that folks be juried and approved for membership. They want billboards, also.

There were some who wanted the purpose to be  educational, lifting the quality of our work. Those folks wanted the membership to be open to all. My own purpose was that we had a vehicle in which we could get to know each other, work together on something, build our presence in our community and prepare for the arts to lead in the future of Eureka Springs.

So why is any of this important? There are young people arriving in Eureka Springs, hoping to find places for themselves in the arts. It may be useful to know more about our history for shaping our future.

Today I have friends coming over to help me flip the large table top so I can finish the underside. The photo shows a sandblasted symbol meaning hands working together or the central fireplace at Timberline Lodge. I'd have not noticed it without the guide pointing it out.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

the guild...

In 1976  I'd joined a weekly meditation group  in Springdale, Arkansas that was attended by several of us, almost religiously each week. We would pile into a vehicle and make the trip one hour in each direction. In a mid-week private visit, the group leader mentioned that our city of Eureka Springs was a crisis waiting to happen, and that the Chinese symbols for both crisis and opportunity were the same. He suggested further that crises, often arrived when the right people were ready to seize the opportunity to put things right.

I drove home, wondering who the right people were, and how they might be better prepared to take leadership when the time came. What occurred to me was that the artists were obviously the right people, as they more than others were deeply affected by the beauty and environmental quality of the area. We were like canaries in a coal mind. I was left with the question of how I might assist in preparing artists for the role they might serve?

The answer to that question came when I picked up a copy of the Times-Echo, Eureka Spring's weekly newspaper. It contained an interview article with Henry Menke, an artist who  owned an art studio on the highway east of town. Henry mentioned that Eureka Springs did not have an art guild, but with as many artists as we had in town, there should be one.

That suggested a path toward preparing artists for leadership in our community. A guild would be the way in which we might practice for service and further assert the importance of the arts in the future of Eureka Springs. Failing that, it would at least allow the artists to know each other.

I decided to call a meeting at which we would form a guild. To do so, I walked around and visited with a few artists and told them that an organizational meeting to form the art guild would be held on the shore of Lake Leatherwood that night. About 15-20 people showed up. We all got chiggers from the experience. For those who've not had a case of Arkansas chiggers, I have no way to describe the agony.

I was acclaimed president at that meeting because I was the only one who had a notebook upon which to take names. That was the start of an organization that served for 20 years and that was eventually closed to form the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

The photo is of the epoxy section of the table with embedded stones. I'm now almost ready to turn the table top over to work on the underside. It is so heavy I'll use the tractor and two strong friends.

Make, fix, create, and assist in the restoration of the arts as the center of community life.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

walking it.

I'm back in Arkansas following a week long family reunion near Mt. Hood. I have a busy week planned. One week from today  I have a small cabinets class at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. I'll meet this week with a contractor to begin work on an expanded wood shop for the Clear Spring School. I also meet with a church board about a project, and meet with a writer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for an article about my work and revise and article for Fine Woodworking. With my wife out of town, our Golden Doodle Rosie will be my constant companion.

When I moved to Eureka Springs, there were three functioning potteries, one on Blue Spring Road operated by Lowell and Ruth Ann Baker, the Spring St. Pottery operated by master potter Gary Eagan, and the Eureka Pottery Coop of which I became a member. The Chambered Nautilus, a gallery of fine art owned by James and Betty Yale was the place where I began to sell my work.

At that time Eureka Springs had a fully functioning downtown including Clark's Market where I could buy groceries, Walker Brother's Department store where I could buy boots, shirts and jeans, and on the way home pay my rent, gas and electric bills. We also had a dime store and an Otasko store that sold some auto parts and hardware. Just off the downtown area was Perkins Mill that sold hardware, hand tools and lumber. What we had here was a real town in which I and my dog Allie could walk down the hill from the upper level of town, do nearly all the general business of life and hoof it back home using trails that meandered up through the woods

Over the years, the real downtown catering to the needs of locals was replaced by businesses that catered to tourists, and all the essentials were moved to the highway that passes through the upper end of town. The fact that our highway passes through the upper end of town, missing our lovely downtown completely has been a saving grace. Years ago, some businessmen had invited a television celebrity to town hoping to lure some investment money. They showed him the properties they hoped to grab his attention, and then on the third day he discovered the downtown area on his own. Well, Golly! The celebrity was Jim Nabors who played the TV character Gomer Pile. And there have always been those who think the best part of Eureka Springs is what you can see from an 18 wheeler passing quickly through town.

An artist friend of mine, Max Elbo, had come had come up with an advertising slogan that never gained traction in our town where the business interests and the interests in living here are often on a collision course. "Come to Eureka," Max said, "and rediscover your feet."

Those days were lovely. And much of Eureka remains the same except that the houses are no longer all white. The best way to see it and to feel a part of it is to walk.

Make, fix and create.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

stewards of the forest.

We are in Oregon at a family reunion and the trees are large and lovely...  Forests are endangered throughout the world. The trees might save us yet, as is suggested in an opinion piece in the NewYorkTimes. We might begin working to the best of our ability in harmony with the forests. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/22/opinion/trees-global-warming.html

First we need to create new generations of young folks sensitive to the value of diverse forests. When do children in schools get out into nature and when do they develop the sensitivity necessary to become stewards of the planet?

My cousin Newt, in his retirement works with the national parks removing invasive species. Rain or shine, the challenge gets him outdoors and after a long career in the banking industry, getting out of doors makes him happier, he says, than he's been in years. The task is overwhelming. There's no end to it, but engagement in the process of planetary restoration is a value that persists in the soul, of both man and the heavenly sphere.

Yesterday was our day to cook for the Stowe Family Reunion. While enchiladas were going into the oven, I sat on the back porch overlooking a field of green. The forest is so lovely, and so forgiving. Given time, it will correct things. "How much time," you ask? To develop a mature forest can take centuries. The planet may have that time, but we do not.

It is of absolute necessity that we get children into the outdoors, and that we take ourselves there, also. Friedrich Froebel lived in the Thuringen forest of Germany as a young man and establishing a relationship with the natural world was one of his objectives for Kindergarten.

Can we not each become stewards of the forest? That is one of my hopes. The photo shows some of the common carpentry tools used in the making of Timberline Lodge.

make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

timberline lodge

Yesterday my wife and I drove up to Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood, a structure built by the WPA and completed during the great depression. It is a lovely building and its heritage as a place in which people learned and engaged their creative energies is a thing about which staff members take great pride.

We followed a national park guide as he pointed out many features of the building that we would have missed touring on our own. And it was obvious how deeply enamored the guide was with the lovely place.

During the last recession, the US government chose to bail out the banks, and neglected to bail out the American people, leaving hundreds of thousands in the position of losing their homes. It was one of the largest shift of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy elite in American history. They saved the banks and left the people to flounder. It was a recovery engineered by alumni from Wall Street. The banks made out great. The American people not so.

The interesting thing is that during that recession when folks needed to find work and were willing to work for less, the Republicans blocked spending on infrastructure that would have provided needed repair work at less cost. They argued against increasing the national debt. Now much of that work still needs to be done, but the costs will be much higher due to an economy nearing full employment. Now with a Republican tax reduction plan in place, deficits are skyrocketing and they never say a word about the national debt and the burden we place on our children and grandchildren. Go figure.

In building Timberline lodge, the idea was that folks were in desperate need of employment, but they also needed growth in skill and confidence and those were of vital importance to the future of our nation. Even then, young men and women were called upon to learn hand skills that had been neglected. Even then their creativity had been made dormant by American education.

The photo shows the hand forged iron latch on the front door of Timberline Lodge. There are lessons to learn there about how building such beautiful and useful things can affect the character of the nation.

Make, fix and create. Act to assure others learn likewise.


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Back to the hands

The back to the land movement led folks to buy cheap land in Arkansas upon which to do back breaking labor. There had been a tremendous loss in population in Arkansas begining during the great depression. You could buy land here during the seventies and eighties for very little money. When well-known hydrologist Tom Aley became interested in studying Karst terrain, he looked for a map showing Karst in the US. What he found instead was a map of poverty and found that Karst and poverty provided a near perfect overlay. That map explained why the land was cheap and attractive and why the back to the land movement was a challenging proposition,

Karst is characterized by steep hills underlain by soluble limestone with caves and some springs. The hills are overlain by thin soils unsuited to most agriculture. It is also characterized by clear springs and streams with water that looks refreshingly clean but is not. So when the back to the landers hit Arkansas looking to build lives away from the military industrial complex that was driving the American economy and turning American politics away from democratic ideals, they encountered the same circumstances that led thousands of folks to leave Arkansas during the great depression. They were drawn and deceived by the beauty of this place. Some of the hippies attempted to go back to traditional techniques including plowing with mules. For most it did not work so well. Winters in shacks that the hippies had built for themselves were hard and in the Eureka Springs area, many rural dwellers would spend a lot more time in town during the winter months

In what I can choose to describe as a "back to the hand movement," many young folks moved near Mountain View and Eureka Springs to self-construct lives as craftsmen in clay, wood, leather, fiber arts and many of the traditional pioneer crafts. The Arkansas Craft Guild played a big role in bringing these folks together and provided the opportunity for them to sell their wares. I was a member for many years. I participated in guild sponsored craft shows and sold my work through their shops. I also found a great deal of encouragement for my own work through association with other craft artists. This same movement was taking place in Oregon and California.

Make, fix and create.

Monday, July 22, 2019

a social movement...

The back to the land movement was brought on by writers like Arkansas writer Charlie May Simon and her  first husband and Helen and Scott Nearing in New England who helped readers to get back in "touch" with nature, and themselves.

We are past due for a "back to the hands" movement to go even deeper in our relationships with reality. This is not to glamorize craftsmanship, but to restore it. It is essential to the growth and intelligence of humanity. It also happens to be essential to a restoration of the planet.

I am at a family reunion in the vicinity of Mount Hood. The trees are lovely and TALL. I'm reading Jared Phillips book Hipbillies with a forward by a friend of mine, Crescent Dragonwagon. It is a good look back at times that many of my friends and I passed through in Eureka.

"How does a small community in Arkansas become a center of the ARTS?" I hope to lay out and explain a few things.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Brotherhood Co-op

By the time I arrived in Eureka Springs the hippy inmigration had been in full swing for 3 years, with many of the arrivals coming in 1972 and some before. As banker John Cross noted (perhaps with some degree of hope, "They come and they go." Not all came to stay. Some came over and over again through years. as their personal economic situations would allow. Other folks will know more about those earlier times than I.

The thing that left the greatest impression on Louis Freund was the Brotherhood Co-op. He mentioned it to me a number of times as it had captured his imagination. The Co-op was in a derelict building in downtown Eureka Springs and served as a clearing house for day labor, as well as supplying space for various craft enterprises like the foundry set up by artist Hank Kaminsky. Those days and the co-op itself should be written up in a book before those who played roles in it are lost. The day labor from the co-op provided a great deal of energy to the restoration of homes and buildings in Eureka Springs that were in dire need of attention, and for some, the co-op gave an introduction to skilled artistry. Ken Dane was one of the central figures in the co-op and led crews for the restoration of homes.

In the meantime the town was overrun by long haired hippy folks, who soon knew each other and hugged in the streets, much to the consternation of some of the town's more established local folks.

Many if not most of the young folks attempting to set up new lives in Eureka Springs had been traumatized by the long-ongoing Vietnam War. Some of the young men had been caught up in it and all others had been made sick of the military industrial complex by what they'd seen of the nightly news. Most came to Eureka Springs hoping to build lives that were more than that. And the place here was sure laid out pretty.

Some of the young folks were back to the landers, having been influenced by the writings of Helen and Scott Nearing and drawn by the cheap price of land. What I knew of farming was that it took good soil, a thing I did not see in the area. So even though land was very cheap, this would likely not be the best place to do that.

My own journey was more basic, a calling back to the hand. Back to the land or not, back to the hand though unspoken was very  central to motivating the inmigration of young folks. And Eureka Springs, like a number of other small towns in the US was the place from which to commence that journey.

Make, fix and please create. Hold the doors open for others to do likewise.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

the old red, Eureka part II

The old red school house in Eureka Springs had served as the one and only public school in Eureka Springs until the1950s. It was a three story brick building tucked away on Kansas St. and when I moved to Eureka it was owned by Frank and Hazel Cox. They had established a small pottery in the basement of what had been the school's administration building that had been converted to apartments. Frank and Hazel had moved to Eureka from Texas and they had made the old red school house their home.

The old red school house had been saved from complete demolition a few years earlier, by a woman who stepped in as it was being torn down. She refused to let it be completely destroyed, bought it and then put on a new roof. The top floor was gone but most of it was saved by a person concerned about the preservation of our local culture.

During my early years in Eureka Springs the old red school house had been sold by Frank and Hazel to be a Swami Satchidananda ashram. In any case, it became a gathering point for hippies from all over and served as such for many years. Many young folks came to town wondering how to find the old red school house. Events of interest were held there. Even Clear Spring School used a classroom  there for a short time. It was an out of the way landmark that played an important part in a resurgence of local culture, particularly for the hippies that came to town in the 70's. At one point a fellow set up a wood shop in the  cramped space of the old boiler room below the building. Classrooms became residences. When it burned and was lost to our community, it was like a death suffered in the family.

Finding my way to the Eureka Pottery Coop, and being welcomed like a lost soul, I landed at just the right time. Jim Harrell, a friend of Frank and Hazel's from Dallas had been the center of the operation. He was just leaving to go back to Texas and I fell right in, even taking over his small basement apartment across the street. The rent was $25.00 per month. Finding the apartment had been turned over to a new renter the landlord raised the rent to $40.00 but offered the use of the leaky roofed garage for free but for a closet reserved for the upstairs tenant.

Here's the local cast of characters. Talina was a bit round and with a lovely smile and soft in her ways. She radiated warmth. Her area of work was in making small hand-built clay boxes that were fired in the raku kiln. Rusty was a tall red haired woman who specialized in wheel thrown functional stoneware and skinny dipping. She was always trying to lure me away from my work for a quick trip to Hog Scald, and I suspected she always had something more in mind than sitting naked on the shores of Beaver Lake. Talina was partnered with a man named "Blue" whom I remember best for his hand-rolled bugle boy smokes. Rusty was partnered with whomever as near as I could tell. I never asked. And being located at the old red school house brought a constant stream of guests.

With a Randall wheel that I brought from Memphis, a brick floor that was impervious to the splashes of clay that fell upon it, shelves for drying pots, and kilns in a shed outside the front door, I set to work. We mixed  our own glazes and bought clay from L&R Specialties in Nixa, Missouri by the by 1/2 ton (what my Toyota pick up could carry). I was grateful that I'd saved a bit of money, as it would soon run out. The last straw was when Rusty and friends headed off to the Jazz Festival in New Orleans with our pots to sell and came back having spent all the money, hers and ours as well. The whole operation had been easy come and easy go, almost socialistic, and when my money was finally gone, so, too was the Eureka Pottery Coop.

I had learned to do a few things quite well. I could turn vases on the wheel as tall as twenty inches or more before shrinkage. They were tall enough that my elbow would disappear in the mouth of the vessel, and I was turning things thin enough to require little trimming. I always sought perfection in form (whatever that meant).  I would fire the large vessels in the raku kiln splashed with glazes to resemble pots I saw in the pottery magazines of the time. I also made mugs, one of which is still on my desk holding pencils, it being better at that than for allowing sips of morning coffee. I felt great pride in my work which I'll talk about another time. I was attempting to develop my own style of work.

In the meantime, I was learning a lot about my newly adopted community of Eureka Springs.

I'll not tell at this at a single sit. If you have recollections from those times, please feel free to comment.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, July 19, 2019

how'd you end up here?

A question that is often asked when people meet in Eureka for the first time is "how did you end up here?" Here is a bit like paradise and a bit like the end of the earth where things begin to drop off into empty space. It is a refuge.

While things west of here are constantly changing and for the worse in some minds. (you know progress and all.) Here the same quiet streets and downtown buildings have remained unchanged for years.

Famous Arkansas poet John Gould Fletcher had written Louis and Elsie Freund many years ago, that "There's not much happening in Eureka, but it sure is laid out pretty." And so it could be of no surprise that artists like me would end up here, basking in beauty, attempting to build skill in reflection of it.

I first heard of Eureka Springs when I was studying pottery at Memphis State University. I had exhausted the resources at Memphis State and was ready to move on, grad school or whatever. A former pottery student passed through the studio  to give her regards to her old teaching staff and mentioned that she had a job at the Spring St Pottery making things from clay. She encouraged me to come to Eureka and check things out. I enlisted a couple friends, Mitch and Dori to come with me and with my dog Allie we did.

At the time, most of the houses were in a state of disrepair and all were painted white with no additional attention color-wise to their Victorian embellishments. There is one main street that wanders through the town and you can go round and round, seeing new things, and can drive the same street years and years still discovering new things that have been around for years even from before when we were born.

To keep a short story short, they were long on potters at the Spring St. Pottery, but after being lost for awhile on the town's one main street we found the old Red School house on Kansas, where I found the Eureka Pottery Coop in a basement and was welcomed like a fresh spark of long lost soul.

And so, I will in subsequent posts, attempt to tell more.

The photo is of Cowan's hand made box guitar, finished by Cowan and his grandpa after my weekend class at ESSA.

Make, fix, and create.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Making a cremains box.

A few years back I published an article on the Fine Woodworking website about making a box for the crematory remains of a loved one. https://www.finewoodworking.com/2012/05/09/making-a-crematory-urn-box-part-i

This comes to mind with the loss of my sister Sue to cancer, and one of the things I have planned is to build a box for her cremains as I've done for other members of my family and community.

It is an important thing to turns one's grief into action. Building something from wood is often a process of growth and renewal. It most often involves acts of forgiveness for oneself, as mistakes are inevitable. And the lessons one learns are not the lessons that can be measured in a standardized test, but through the realities of life.

The photo comes from an earlier blog post on the moral implications of craftsmanship. https://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com/2010/04/moral-implications-of-craftsmanship.html

Make, fix and create.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

a way you can help...

With my woodworking with kids book coming out in May 2020 (as currently proposed on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Wisdom-Hands-Guide-Woodworking-Kids/dp/1940611881/ ), I am hoping to finish my more philosophical Wisdom of the Hands book so it can come out at the same time. I have long visualized the woodworking with kids book as being the workbook for implementing the wisdom of the hands philosophy as expressed in the WOH book (always in the works) and through this blog.

My blog readers can assist by reading and pinpointing passages from the blog that should be highlighted in the book. I invite more interchange with my readers. Read deep. Reflect on your own life and report back.

Let's start with the title. It will be: Wisdom of the Hands: Crafting Self, Family, Community and Human Culture.

In the blog, at upper left, you will find a search box that will be useful in navigating my thirteen years of blog posts. I will need to tell stories from my own life to put things in context but the story is broad, involving my whole community of Eureka Springs and the ways in which its members have fostered the arts and the development of the artistry in each other.

F&W Books, that had gone bankrupt, is now on settled ground. The books division was purchased by Penguin Random House, one of the largest publishers in the US. That means I'll continue receiving royalty checks from an earlier work.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

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