Friday, May 31, 2019

the Celebration of the Child.

Yesterday at the Clear Spring School we had our annual Celebration of the Child and our high school graduation. One of the graduates was a boy I'd had as a student in wood shop since he was in first grade, so it was a touching moment in their lives and mine.

In the Celebration of the Child, each child is honored for  qualities of character, as these are their most important gifts. Friendship, initiative, curiosity, a sense of humor, kindness, helpfulness, flexibility, perseverance, and more.

With school finished but for end of year reports and in-service training, I'll turn my attention to teaching adults. Serious editing of my woodworking with kids book is about to commence as I'm preparing for summer classes at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking and at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. At the beginning of July I have an editor from Fine Woodworking coming to take photographs for yet another article about box making.

Do not forget that we are launching a capital campaign for our hands-on learning center. Part of the funds will be used to add onto the new wood shop. Part will be used to enclose a large porch for use in visual arts. Part will be used to turn  a large kitchen into a culinary arts studio. The Windgate Foundation will match funds (gifts or pledges) one for one up to a total of $35,000.00. This is a chance to donate and see your money doubled for a good cause. You can mail checks to the Clear Spring School PO Box 511, Eureka Springs, Arkansas 72632. Donations can also be made by phone. Please call 479-253-7888. Contributions are tax deductible.

The doll house is one made by a couple of my middle school students to be played with in the lower grades.

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

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

a chance to give and share...

We are nearing the close of the school year and I have but one more day of classes to wrap up.

Friday was my last Kindergarten class of the year and the kids made this card as a thank you for their time in wood shop. It was a great experience for all of us. I thank you for sharing in this journey.

I will have teacher inservice training for a week and then a fundraising event for the Wisdom of the Hands and our new Hands-on Learning Center on June 7. A planned wood shop expansion will better enable teaching adults to teach woodworking to kids.

For that, we are launching a capital campaign and donations will be matched by the Windgate Foundation. You can mail checks to the Clear Spring School PO Box 511, Eureka Springs, Arkansas 72632. Donations can also be made by phone. Please call 479-253-7888. Contributions are tax deductible.

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

Monday, May 27, 2019

whittling and turning

In an article in this month's American Woodturner magazine famous woodturner David Ellsworth used a whittling knife to teach the character of wood and to impart greater skill to woodturners. Whittling knives don't cut very well against the grain, and the same is true of gouges on the lathe. You get a cleaner cut when attention is paid to the direction of wood grain and to stand mindless at the lathe will not bring the best results. Ellsworth's point was to get turners to observe closely rather than standing dumb at the lathe.

Ellsworth said, "The basic principles behind woodworking, especially turning wood, are all illustrated through the process of whittling." In the article he also discussed posture and movement, thus suggesting other ways that woodturning and wood working in general can give shape to both the maker and what's made.

That's one of the reasons I introduce whittling to my students at Clear Spring School. They enjoy it, but also there are things you can observe and learn about the character of wood, and about about your self.

I have been reading online about making recorders on the lathe and was reminded of an artist who used to live in Eureka Springs. His name at the time was Garrett Alden and he made lovely carved netsuke from wood and stone that doubled as whistles and flutes. They were incredible works of art. After moving from Eureka he changed his name to Whittaker Freegard, and published an article in Fine Woodworking on making a flute in 1984. Whittaker Freegard passed away in 2006.

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

Sunday, May 26, 2019

a first line of defense

Finland is mobilized against Russian misinformation and sharing a long border and a long face-to-face history with that rogue state has made defense of their democracy of vital importance. In the US we are just learning how Facebook was weaponized in the last election. Finland's schools have become active in countering purposeful misinformation and that sets an example for us, too.

In Finland they regard the Kindergarten classroom as their "first line of defense" as children in school begin to learn to discern that which is true from that which is purposefully distorted to gain advantage.

But how can Kindergarten students learn to discern truth from misinformation? It helps when they are doing real things and engaged directly in the real world. Kindergarten woodworking can play a role in that.

When I was at the University of Helsinki for a conference, I wandered off during a boring presentation and discovered the wood shop where Kindergarten teachers were being taught to teach woodworking to their pupils. How wonderful is that? It's nice when kids read at an early age, but without a foundation of experience, reading leaves them vulnerable to malicious manipulation.

One good measure that I'll suggest for our own use of social media. If a post is kind, it has a greater likelihood of truth. Facebook was invented as way of sharing among friends, and even its founders were unprepared for the ugliness that would ensue when malicious forces gained access to their platform. We can watch the angry tweets and political temper tantrums and know something is amiss as evil forces try to manipulate us through the use of anger, resentment, divisiveness and fear. We watched these things play out to our great loss in the last election and will see it again in the next.

Just as we can look to Finland for a better model of public education, we can look there for the means of killing misinformation before it wrecks our democracy.  They are training their populace to discern truth from malicious misinformation. Latvia is another nation threatened by renewed Russian hegemony. They have a prime-time Sunday night television program, "The lies the Russians told this week." And in Estonia they have an army of volunteer online protectors to counter Russian influence and fake news. It's important to them because they know what it means to live under the thumb of the Russian state. It is important to us, too. We just didn't know it quite so well yet.

Yesterday I attended a meeting of the Stateline Woodturners held at ESSA and watched as our ESSA director learned to turn wood on the lathe for the first time. I also tested my gun drill that's used for drilling long holes accurately through cylinders of wood. It is hooked up to a compressor that forces air through the tip, keeping it cool and expelling wood chips before they build up in the hole. It drills perfectly straight.

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

Saturday, May 25, 2019

friendship boxes...

Yesterday with the last Kindergarten woodworking class of the year, I helped my students to make "friendship boxes." In years past, and in exclusive summer camps on the east coast, campers would make friendship boxes and exchange them with each other as a way of sharing memories of their delightful days at camp and the good friends they had found there. I was made aware of friendship boxes by an article in the Smithsonian a number of years ago.

So friendship boxes seemed to be an ideal way to end the school year. Each student had someone in mind as the boxes were made and decorated. Small boxes are useful enough that they will be kept and enjoyed for years to come. The students wrote notes to go inside.

The boxes are nailed and glued, and lid pivots open using an axle intended for wooden wheels as the pivot pin. In preparation for the project, I cut the parts to size and predrilled the nail holes. I also had the drill press set up with the right bit for drilling holes for the pivot pin attaching the lid.

Yesterday one of our teachers told me that our oversized Froebel blocks have played a role in bringing out the confidence in one of our boys. He had been socially awkward. While the other boys were playing together he would manipulate the blocks on his own, gradually drawing the other boys in. Now he is showing greater confidence in his relationship with all the other students in class and in other things. I can assure you that the blocks have no magic power on their own, but they have helped foster a more loving and cooperative environment for learning.

Today the Stateline Woodturners will meet at ESSA to practice segmented turning. I plan to attend.

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

Friday, May 24, 2019

community arts awards

I received two awards last night at a spaghetti dinner honoring the artists in our community. Hosted by the Basin Park Hotel and Main Street Eureka Springs, I was honored as "Best Arts Educator," and for "Best Fine Craft." The voting was online. of all the artists and art teachers in town, it was an honor to be singled out.

The Eureka Springs Pleine Air Festival is this week so there are painters set up with easels in lovely locations all over town. Years ago Arkansas poet John Gould Fletcher had written to Louis Freund, that "There's not much happening in Eureka Springs, but it sure is laid out pretty." That can be said today, so it's not surprising that painters would come from all over to paint this week.

My last classes of the school year for Kindergarten and for 5th and 6th grades are today, so I'm beginning to wrap up another year and I'll be turning my attention to a summer of adult classes.

The photo is from our boat outing on Wednesday.

Make, fix, and create. Provide opportunities for others to learn likewise.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

boat and picnic day

Our Bevins Skiffs that we built last year gave us an excuse for a day at Lake Leatherwood where our students played, picnicked and took turns rowing around the lake.

We had a boat day last year that was for the builders to have a turn at the oars. Yesterday our students grades 1 through 12 had an opportunity to go out in the boats. It was fun. All came back safe and dry. The boats were perfect.

I thank the staff at the Clear Spring School for planning the event, feeding the kids and helping in every way. The girl in the lead boat asked, "Will you take my picture, please? I want to see it on facebook." Here, you see it too. Thanks also to Juanita and Anna for serving as water safety observers on paddle board and kayak.

The Bevins Skiff is a boat specifically designed for teaching math.

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

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

this day...

Today we had a visit by staff members from Arkansas A+ Schools in preparation for further training in June which will allow us to become an official A+ School. A+ refers to the integration of the Arts. We do that quite well and hope that Clear Spring School can help as a role model for other schools.

Tomorrow is boat and cook out day. All of our students will go to Lake Leatherwood to play and to ride in the Bevins Skiffs we built last year.

I am working to solidify my program for the coming years. The wood shop will move this summer into the garage of our new hands-on learning center. The garage will require some expansion and so we will have a capital campaign to help it become a space for teaching teachers as well as kids. My old wood shop space will be surrendered and refurbished to provide classroom space for further growth of our school.

I've been training a possible replacement teacher, and at some point, I may step back into the sidelines. But not yet.

Make, fix, create, and insist that others have the opportunity to learn likewise.

Monday, May 20, 2019

back to the hands

Yesterday I spent most of the Books in Bloom Literary Festival hauling tents, putting up tents, parking cars, taking down tents and hauling tents back to the storage unit where they will wait for next year's event. (husbandly support)

I did attend one of the author presentations on a book about those of us who moved to the Ozark Mountains in the early to mid seventies. In it we were cleverly named "hipbillies" a term combining the terms hippies and hillbillies.

The book is largely about the "back to the land" movement that brought growth and new direction to the Ozark region. It mentions Ed Jeffords and the Ozark Institute for which I built library shelves in my small garage shop in the late 1970's. A number of my other friends are featured or mentioned in the book. Many other friends who had come and tried their best to scratch honest livings from thin and barren soils moved on to other things.

The "back to the land"movement would be better described as a "back to the hand"movement, as it was built not only of those who wanted to farm and own land  (also a return to the hand) but also those of us who had hoped for more meaningful lives as artists and craftspeople. The back to the landers would show up in Eureka Springs to "boogie." While the artists and craftspeople were here and in Mountain View or in surrounding hills, struggling to learn to make beautiful and useful things.

The book,"Hipbillies" was sold out yesterday at the event but I had the opportunity to review a copy prior to publication. It is an interesting read and a look into the history of this place that I and my friends were parts of. My own signed copy of the book will be sent by mail.

Today in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School, we'll be inching toward the conclusion of the school year.

Make, fix, and create. Assure a future in which all others learn likewise.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

books in bloom (what did you learn in wood shop?)

Today is our annual Books in Bloom literary festival at the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs. It's an opportunity to meet a variety of nationally known and local writers. And buy their books. Organizing Books in Bloom is one of my wife's most significant projects, so I am called in as a volunteer and sponsor.

Yesterday I picked up Jeffrey Deaver from the airport and learned that in addition to having over 40 million books in print in multiple languages, he took shop class in 7th and 8th grades. "What happened to all that, " he wondered aloud. I assured him that shop classes were on a comeback tour, just as this is Jeffrey Deaver's second visit to Eureka Springs. Shop classes are becoming popular again, driven by a renewed understanding that we need skilled workers unless we've agreed to be a nation of idle consumers and fail as a nation.

Unfortunately, the recognition that all children are brought to greater understanding and fit into the fabric of humanity and human culture and natural life, has not sunk in yet.

Jeffrey Deaver, author of many, many books, can still remember what he learned in wood shop. Ask him about it.

Make, fix, read then create. Plan for others to learn likewise.

Friday, May 17, 2019

white st. art walk

Tonight is the 29th annual White St. Walk in which yards, porches and homes along White St. in Eureka Springs will host artists selling their work. It is a major event in the year, and as usual, I'll have some of my work set up for sale at Lux Weaving Studio. I hope that a few readers can attend.

The photo shows student engagement in the arrangement and play with the large Froebel blocks in the Clear Spring School sand box. The sand, originally put in place for volleyball, provides an ideal foundation for the blocks. Once arrangements of blocks are made, the children play.

In preparation for reaccreditation at the Clear Spring School, we are  reviewing our school curriculum and scope and sequence of learning between the various age groups. One thing became clear to me in recent reading. We are a school located in a special place that affords special opportunities for place based learning. We are located in a community filled with music and the arts, with a backdrop of historic architecture, and set in a unique and rich natural environment. Our students camp, travel and play in the woods. They engage in internships, and they collaborate between grade levels.

In explaining to ISACS, our accreditation organization, what we do and how our curriculum is designed, these are important points. While most school have become walled enclaves purposely isolated from the real world. we recognize that schooling to be at its best should be connected with reality in order for learning to go deep and connect deeply.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling so that others play and learn likewise.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

National Arbor Day.

Yesterday was National Arbor Day and we celebrated at the Clear Spring School by planting a sugar maple along the soon to be built Clear Spring Trail that will go from the school to Harmon Park and and provide an option to walking in the road. The trail is a collaboration between the school and the parks commission and will be networked to trails throughout our city. Our mayor read a proclamation noting the importance of the day.

Today I will be setting up my display for the White St. Art Walk, one of the premier events of the May Festival of the Arts in Eureka Springs. It is a large street party, now in its 29th year. If you are local to Eureka Springs, find a place to park and come to Lux Weaving Studio 18 White St. on Friday sometime from 5-10 PM and I'll show you some of my work. Other artists will have their work on display and for sale, up and down the street.

Most artists need to sell their work in order to make more and to survive. Folks who are independently wealthy only rarely feel the need to create, but they can be of assistance to those who do.

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

a highlight of the school year

One of our teachers yesterday told me that one of the highlights of the school year has been my introduction of the supersized Froebel blocks to the school playground. The kids have not tired of manipulating them into new configurations, and even with a small number of blocks the variations are endless. It helped that I introduced them only one at a time. 

The photo shows the first block, which created interest and invited manipulation. Each new element brings renewed interest.

My latest addition is a 4 x 8 plank 8 feet long with a carrying strap connected at each end. It is heavy enough that it takes more than one child to lift it into place. The straps allow it to be dragged from place to place and keep fingers from being pinched underneath.

The blocks are of a size that they require collaboration in moving and arranging, so they invite students to work together toward shared goals.

We are now in a time of year in which the students are restless and most of their assigned work has been done. On Friday I'll be selling my work in the Lux Weaving Studio during the White Street Art Walk.

Make, fix, create, and plan for others to learn likewise.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

sometimes I just don't know...

There are times when I just do not know what my students are making. For example, this work is one that defies my ability to understand. It's one that took several woodworking classes to complete. He alone knew when it was complete and ready to take home. His parents may or may not marvel at its construction. Is it fine craftsmanship? The maker was not concerned about that. Concern with such details is something that comes developmentally at a later age.

One of my first grade boys made a wooden bench and had hand planed the top. He took it home. He was proud of it. How many children of his age had ever had the opportunity to make something so useful and interesting?  His dad decided that it had not been sanded sufficiently. He took it to the garage and worked on it for an hour, bringing it closer in alignment with his own standards. Had I known I would have counseled to leave it alone.  Had he witnessed how hard his son had worked on it, he might have had a deeper appreciation for it just as it was. The student's work is their own. And we need not be overly concerned with their craftsmanship and should instead trust them with knowing when it's complete. There are stages in artistic development, in what children see and understand, and to apply adult standards to their work is to miss the point, and to miss the value of what they have accomplished.

The following post offers my own discussion of Victor Lowenfeld's writing on the stages of artistic development. It is particularly interesting, in that as children near adolescence, they divide roughly along two paths of development. One, Lowenfeld identified as visual, being concerned with representations of verisimilitude and the other haptic, being concerned with how things feel. I've witnessed it as children grow through their years in wood shop. There are some who are concerned only with the appearance of things and only understand the need for sanding when they see how a surface can be made to shine. Then there are those who are obsessed with how smooth they can make a surface feel to the touch.

As parents, would we expect a child to automatically develop it all at once? Or can we simply watch their growth and celebrate the signs of it?

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

Monday, May 13, 2019

human culture

At what point do we cease to claim that we are part of human culture? And how do we restore the humanity to our daily lives? Are we now living in a machine culture? One in which our mechanics have eclipsed our humanity? Consider the following:
"We live in a machine culture; in our daily lives, we are more and more surrounded by and interfaced with machines.  We are no longer, like our ancestors, simply supplied by machines; we live in and through them. From our workplaces to our errands about town to our leisure time at home, human experience is to an unprecedented extent the experience of being interfaced with the machine, of imbibing its logic, of being surrounded by it and seeking it out..." – Phoebe Sengers.
The bigger and more powerful the machine, the less it lies within our control, and as the machine slides from our control (we are losing our grip), the less human and humane the outcome.

When education is no longer hands-on, and thus no longer relevant to students' live, students have little to grasp. When the hands-on exploration of materials through crafts, and further extensions of hands-on learning through scientific experimentation are removed from schooling, we construct a disconnect between the layman and the scientist, allowing political forces to manipulate public opinion to conform to evil machinations. We've become wired for direct manipulation.

What we see in the political community these days is the result of an educational intent expressed in the design of our institutions: Use schooling to shape students to become blind consumers who can be manipulated to do as told by a ruling class that cares little or nothing for the planet nor for the health of its creatures.

And so the question lingers, "How do we restore human culture?" I think there's a simple path forward. Make a direct study of the past and of simpler times. Then:

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

Sunday, May 12, 2019


This simple joint, called a "birdsmouth" can be useful in building hollow forms. This month's Wooden Boat Magazine shows it being used to make hollow masts and spars for wooden sailboats. In that case the birdsmouth would be formed using a table saw. There are also router bits for cutting the same joint.

I am using this technique to help a student build a music stand. The hollow will house a six sided shaft that will slide within it, making it adjustable in height. The birdsmouth joint offers additional gluing surface over a coopered joint, thus giving it greater strength.

The photo suggests where it got its name. My thanks to Larry Copas for peaking my interest in the technique and my student for offering an opportunity to try it out.

Happy Mothers day to those who are mothers and to those who have mothers. I can remember my mother as being somewhat different from many. When I would go to friends houses as a very young child, we would be left alone to play with toys. When children would come to my house to play, my mother had all kinds of interesting things for us to do that came from her training as a Kindergarten teacher.

Friedrich Froebel had noted the special quality of mothers, recognizing in them the ideal teacher. The same was noted by Pestalozzi in his book, "How Gertrude Teaches Her Children."

Make, fix, create, and plan for others to learn likewise.

Saturday, May 11, 2019


Yesterday one of my newer students broke down in tears, and I thought at first he had hit himself in the thumb with a hammer. It was not that. He told me that he kept making mistakes.

I asked one of my students who's been in the shop for years to tell how many mistakes he's made. He showed the kind of loving compassion than one can learn in the practice of craft. I witnessed an unfolding of human empathy, pure and simple that almost brought tears to my own eyes. Each student reassured the humanity of the other.

We are human beings We make mistakes. Mistakes and the making of them are part of who we are. We are not machines, and had best not have unreasonable expectations of our selves. This does not mean that the practice of craft will not lead us toward perfection. But perhaps it's a perfection of a different kind in which we care for each other.

We engage in the material world to learn from it and to learn about ourselves. Part of what we learn is that skills require practice.  The greater the skill, the more of it. And qualities of character are forged in the quest to attain skill.

Many students these days have been taught to live in horror of making mistakes. That is a terrible thing.

We are about to watch the prices of plastic stuff skyrocket due to tariff's placed on Chinese goods. The tariff will be 25%. And so a piece of plastic stuff that would sell for 10 bucks will be 12.50. This tariff is likely to hit hard at the toy isle. Would we not be better off if children and parents were to make their own toys?

Sunday is Mother's day, so Yesterday in wood shop my Kindergarten students made napkin holders, as you can see in the photo.

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

Friday, May 10, 2019

Oregon teachers walk out...

Oregon teachers went on strike for the very right reasons. They want smaller, more manageable classes. They want more librarians, more mental health professionals.

Teachers do not become teachers, (obviously) for the money, but because they want to make a difference in people's lives. Why do politicians not give them greater support? It may be that they think public schools are for other people's kids, not their own.
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, School and Society

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, May 09, 2019

shaping wood

I am using an angle grinder to shape the inside curvature of the coopered leg sections for the maple natural edged table. This turns out to be an easier job than I expected.

I test the curved surface as I go, using my hands to judge whether the surface is "fair" just as the builder of a small boat might use his hands to "see" what the hands cannot. Where the hands feel a slight rise, I sand again, using the curved edge of the sanding disk to engage the surface rather than the flat face.

It needs not be perfect but to the touch. After texturing any discrepancy will be difficult to see. But caring craftsmanship has its own requirements. In the making of useful beauty, all surfaces require care.

This is a dusty job, requiring a mask. I tested the concept indoors in my already dusty shop, but will take the operation outdoors when the weather improves.

Make, fix, create. Use your imagination and character to grow likewise.


I found this simple definition:
"Craftsmanship is what skilled artists and builders demonstrate when they create something."
Does the term imply gender? Years ago when we founded the Eureka Springs Guild of Artists and Craftspeople (the organization that preceded the Eureka Springs School of the Arts) we were careful in naming the organization to use the term "craftspeople," as a way to avoid using the sexist term "craftsmen."

Is it equally mistaken to use the term "craftsmanship?" Does it also imply the exclusion of women in the appication of caring and skill? Some may go one way and some the other.

Today I will begin texturing the coopered leg sections for the table. The photo shows a student's creation. He tells me it's not done yet and is to be saved to work on next week.

Make, fix and create. Encourage the exercise of care and skill in the making of beautiful useful things.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

on writing and on art.

My mother had once suggested, "Write about what you know, and if you don't know it, don't write about it." This may not apply directly to fiction or to poetry, but both of those have greater, more profound effect when drawn from real life.  Even science fiction and fantasy are brought to greater life when they draw upon emotions that are known and real to the reader or are made real by the use of literary devices that make the scene and characters seem more real. So the writer gains a particular advantage by being involved in real life and doing real things. Even woodworking may be useful as a source of metaphor, and provide an interpretive framework for clarifying and understanding life.

When I write instructions on how to make things, I first must prove that my instructions actually work and are thus true. Poets and other writers are not necessarily under the same constraints. When I write it's to empower others to do what I do. Other writers may not be under the same constraints.

Yesterday I was interviewed on camera by our high school students who are creating an online artist registry for our town. I carefully explained that I'm more a craftsman than an artist, in that I want my work to be useful as well as beautiful and to be an "artist' or whether or not something is "art," is something for others to decide. This is particularly true of useful objects. A painting is always called art but the same is not always said of a teacup or box.

One man a few years back had told me that if you can sell it it's art. His art's not my art.

The photo is of assembled sections of table base. These will be fitted to a central beam, textured and ebonized, but at the moment they resemble objects Froebel might have designed for children to play with and learn from.

Make, fix and create. Prepare for others to learn likewise.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Forrest Gander

A friend of mine, Forrest Gander, recently received the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Forrest was the husband of C.D.Wright, award winning poet who had commissioned the first piece of furniture that I'd made that was to be accepted in the pages of Fine Woodworking Magazine. Forrest and C.D. had lived in a small house on Owen St. here in Eureka Springs before poetry led them on to bigger things.

Some write on paper, some write with wood, but collaboration makes us strong. A few years back when I was attending a conference in Rhode Island, I was grateful to sit with C.D. for tea at the table I had made.

Back in the fall of 1969, I was particularly distressed in my study at Hastings College, and decided to make an immediate adjustment to my graduation strategy. I took an independent study class in creative writing, and enrolled in a pottery class. The pottery class had the greater effect. The independent study was easy. I would show up once a week with something I'd written and that ended up with my publication of a series of poems  in the annual school literary publication with little meaning or effect, and a recommendation from my professor that I continue study toward an MFA in creative writing at the University of Arkansas. He offered to write letters of recommendation, but I was more deeply concerned with figuring what I was going to do to keep from being drafted for Viet Nam. I ended up in Arkansas anyway, but not at the U of A.

Later, while performing alternative service for the draft in Memphis, Tennessee, I attended a poetry reading event, and listened while young poets poured their hearts out. Poetry makes greater sense to me when there's an underlying experience upon which to build the narrative. But that's me, I guess. 

Still, there is a link between crafting with words and crafting with wood. A well crafted table for instance, may look as though it slid easily from a forest of trees, just as a well crafted poem might feel to slide easily from the tongue. And I've wondered about my friend Forrest, whether his name has made him feel more deeply connected to wood. I offer my sincere congratulations to Forrest Gander.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in building lives, likewise.

Monday, May 06, 2019

moving beyond arrogance and greed...

Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop students will be learning some of the lessons to be learned from the practice of craftsmanship. Jean Jacques Rousseau had said, put a young man in a wood shop, his hands will benefit his brain and he'll become a philosopher while thinking himself only a craftsman.

Rousseau implied that there is stature and standing in the practice of philosophy. It was his calling. He also implied a sense of humility in the young man in that he thinks himself "only a craftsman."

Humility is one of the important traits of character seriously lacking in the current state of affairs.

Self promotion seems to be the name of the game in politics and in business affairs, while throughout the country in our small towns and villages, folks do simple humble things in service to each other.

Will there be a time when we are wise enough to choose our leaders from among those who've chosen a more humble path? There are certain warning signs that could protect us in the future from the leaders we have now. Ardent self-promotion tells us that certain folks are not worthy of our respect. Great wealth is never a sign that a man is worthy of our trust.

Watch for those who give freely of themselves in service to others and give them the responsibility and power to be of greater service. You can learn qualities of heart and humility by making useful beauty in service to family and community. It's why kids belong in wood shops.

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

Saturday, May 04, 2019

building components

The photo shows two components of a curved table base. The wood is ash, and the parts are coopered to form the inside and outside curve. Four of these units will be textured, fitted and assembled to form the base of the large and heavy natural edged table.

I chose ash as the material for the base because it is abundant in the market now as foresters race to remove trees killed by the emerald ash borer, an invasive parasite that puts all our nation's ash trees at risk. It's nice to buy beautiful wood at a good price, but the reason for the low price is horrifying. Modern life involves the awkward and painful reconciliation of disparate things.

This month's National Geographic Magazine features two interesting articles back to back. One is about the horrific effect of plastics on our oceans and sea life. The other is about the incredible genius of Leonardo Da Vinci.

The juxtaposition is illuminating. DaVinci lived in a world of wonder and in which science and the arts were the same thing. Many of his most interesting creations were made of wood. The article about plastics in the ocean is truly disturbing. It should cause each of us to reassess the plastics that have become so invasive of our own lives. No one can deny the convenience of cheap plastic. But surely, given the facts as presented in National Geographic, we should learn to recoil from their use. Some identify single use plastics as the big problem. But given the fact that our big box stores are so full of plastics that have limited use in our lives and present long term disposal problems, we should be thinking of wood.

Beautifully crafted objects made of real wood can last centuries. When the usefulness and beauty of crafted wooden objects have been used up, the material returns to the soil and continues the process for new beauty to be created. The same cannot be said for plastic, much of which cannot be recycled.

Make, fix and create. Give others a chance to live, learn and grow likewise.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

cello plays–children play

A few years back I heard an interview with cellist Yo-yo Ma. He described a tour in China in which he visited homes of peasant folk. He said that when he would begin playing, the children would get down on the floor and wrestle with each other. When he would stop playing they would stop and stare, wondering why he'd stopped.

We are used to art being something we stare at and performers getting their accolades from having their work stared at. Yo-yo Ma was making a suggestion that perhaps there was another way of looking at things.

In the blog I make a point concerning the creation of useful beauty. This is the start of the May Festival of the Arts. Are the arts something to be stared at or lived with; made actual use of even to the point of being worn out and into the soul of who we are as individuals, families and communities?  The creation and use of useful beauty infuses artful spirit into the fabric of home and community life.

A few years back my high school students had noticed that nearly everything they owned came from China. I asked, "Do you have anything in your home that was made by someone you know?" One of my students answered, "I have the wooden bowl I turned in wood shop." That's a start. Cello plays–children play.

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

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

The mindfulness of crafted objects

We have become cogs in a machine whirring beyond our consciousness and control, but, what if we wanted to live our lives more fully conscious and awakened to mystery and wonder at the interconnections we have with nature and with each other?

What would be the nature of the objects that framed that experience? When we picked up a cup to drink, would it be one made through caring investment of human attention, or thoughtlessly and mindlessly cranked out by a machine in a foreign land and delivered through a complex and environmentally destructive mechanism to the local Target Store?

 Is consciousness something that just happens to us haphazard and regardless, or are there choices we make that affect the depth and quality of our experience? In the US, this rule seems to apply to crafts: the less useful the object, the greater its value... as though crafts, like art are to be placed on shelves and on walls and seen but not felt. And yet it is through the touch and use of an object that its full depth of meaning and relationship is revealed.

In today's world, the deep feelings and sensitivities of the craft maker are kept at arms length. Worse, they are extinguished on the altar of ever-greater efficiency that we call progress. Progress for the individual maker is different from what we call progress in the larger scheme of things. For the individual maker progress can be best defined as the process of discovering a successful place in community through which personal and familial needs can be met. Progress in the larger scheme of things rarely takes the individual into consideration. It involves markets and banks, whereas the progress for an individual maker demands the growth of skill.

So we get to choose. The choice involves the quality of our own lives and the quality of the communities in which we live.

Make, fix, and create. Plan for others to learn likewise.