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.

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.

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.

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 ), 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.


Tuesday, July 16, 2019

a pivot lid box...

A student from this year's class at Marc Adams School of Woodworking contacted me about an upcoming visit with his grandson and his desire to share his love of box making. He remembered seeing my pivot lid box that we've made the Clear Spring School and asked if I could direct him to more information.

The blog that I've written since 2006 has a search function that allows readers to find such things.

Knowing that I have helped inspire parents and grandparents to do woodworking with their kids is enormously satisfying to me. It means that there will be yet more generations of creativity and engagement in woodworking.

Today I'll be reworking some essays for my new book. It will include some pivot lid boxes.

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

Monday, July 15, 2019

We had great fun

We had great fun making box guitars and I was pleased the class went so well. It followed five intense days of box making at ESSA. I'm exhausted, not so much from seven straight days of class, but from the emotions involved in the death of my younger sister, Sue. Her death reminds me of my own mortality and the pressing concern of doing what's mine to do in the time I've got.

We must redirect American education toward the full implementation of our greatest human resources, our hands.

It's a large task. Gargantuan. I'll not do it alone. Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Anaxagoras had proclaimed man to be the wisest of all animals because he has hands. So this is not a discovery I made up on my own. It is a thing observed by countless wise folks through the long history of the human race. It is a thing that you can test in your own hands through recollections of your own learning experiences: those that have brought about an actual shift in your thinking or the direction of your  own life.

You will not need a standardized test or exhaustive research paper devised by experts to tell you what you need to know and that you can observe for yourself if you trust yourself to do so. We learn best, most efficiently and to greatest lasting effect when we learn hands-on.

So what do I mean by hands-on? Think of the first mate's call, All hands on Deck. He's not calling for hands alone, but hands connected to mind and will and skill and intelligence to do what needs to be done, sometimes in desperation to save the ship.

When children are allowed to do real things in service to family and community they learn from the real world those things they need to enable them to make even greater contributions as they mature. When they learn these things in the context of formal education, school becomes relevant  and even exciting to their own learning needs. The erasure of woodworking from schools is a symptom of greater issues: a reliance upon the contrived which the informs children that school is made up, unreal and the lessons therefore a waste of their time.

The ship of state is desperate shape and calls for courage. The state of American education, the same. It calls that we be good and that we be brave, and that we stand up against those who want education to confine children in classrooms with empty hands and empty minds.

So how about it? The photo shows one of our finished box guitars. Today I have my opening dialog with the editor of my book about woodworking with kids.

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

Sunday, July 14, 2019

day one box guitars

Yesterday I began a two day parent/child box guitar class with grandparents, an aunt, and children ages 9-17. We covered tables with white paper so they could design and draw the boxes they wanted to make. Each started with full scale drawings the kids and adults developed in cooperation.

Each designed a box guitar that will be absolutely unique. After assembling the box sides, we added bottoms, tops and necks and began painting, with the kids making decisions on the colors of milk paint to be used.

Adults and children alike enjoy watching the creative process, and one grandparent noted that it was so much better that each was trusted from the outset to exercise creativity than for all to be expected to do the same thing.

Children are hungry to learn and conventional schooling can kill that spark. Woodworking in school is a way to keep enthusiasm up and learning alive.

Today the students will finish painting their guitars and will add tuning pegs, bridge, nut and strings.

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

Friday, July 12, 2019

day 5 at ESSA

Today I finish my 5 day box making class at ESSA and will then set up for a two day adult/child class on making box guitars.

Yesterday I gave a demonstration of cutting mitered finger joints during ESSA's studio stroll. Real work, doing real things provides the opportunity to discuss philosophy without boring the listener, so I used the opportunity to make a plug for a return to a more thoughtful societal state in which what we acquire and own would reinforce character in our communities and build resilience in our nation state.

That's a hard slog when you can get machine made stuff imported from foreign lands so cheap. Just imagine! We would rather destroy the planet for cheap stuff than build skill, character and intelligence in each other.

As my sister Sue lay dying the night before last, my brother-in-law Mike heard her say quietly to herself, "Be good. Be brave." Whether words of encouragement to herself, or counsel to others, the words are wise for both life and for death.

We must all be brave. We must all talk frankly with each other and be brave and good in what we say and do.

One of my students at lunch suggested term limits as a way to improve politics in America. I mentioned my wife's 30 plus year service to our local libraries. Would it not be better if, instead of throwing the bums out on a routine basis that we encourage them to adhere to higher standards? My wife would be a better Senate majority leader than Mitch McConnell, simply because she has personal standards of goodness that require that she serve the public, not serve the party, or the big donors, or the ideology or what it takes to be re-elected.

So let's reform elections in the US and raise the expectation that elected "public servants" be held to the same standards of goodness and bravery as the rest of us. That we must be good enough and brave enough to be in steady service to each other.

Make, fix, and create...

Thursday, July 11, 2019

ready for day 4.

I am preparing for day four of my box making class at ESSA. At lunch today we talked about the decline in the relationship between people and the overabundance of things in their lives.

We are overwhelmed by meaningless stuff that can be acquired with little or no benefit to our communities. When we ask those we love to make things for us, we ask them thereby to grow in skill, character and intellect, and in that lies the growth of real community.

We can go online for the fake stuff. If you want the real deal, make beautiful and useful things with your own hands and share them with each other. Today in the ESSA wood shop, we'll install hinges, and apply finish to the boxes that have been assembled so far. Other boxes will be launched. Because the class is small, I've managed to work on some of my own.

I have been in a state of grief over a younger sister dying of cancer. Sue Shelden passed away yesterday afternoon. She was an art lover. She exercised her hands and mind in pottery, basketry  and more. She was the one in her household to fix things whether the task required a wrench or a Skilsaw. She would go to her local book stores and if she found one of my books, she would place it cover side out so that others would be drawn to what was inside.  It is only a very small comfort to know that we remain deeply connected to each other.

The boxes shown are some made by Jerry in my class. Each of my students has beautiful boxes in the works. This afternoon, from 4-5:30 we have studio stroll at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. This is your special invitation. Light snacks, beer and wine will be served.

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

day three

I'm ready for my third day of box making class at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. The students have been cutting mitered joints, installing miter keys, making finger joints, designing and fitting lift lids and no two boxes are alike. Today I'll demonstrate installing hinges.

There is a difference between woodworking and some of the other art forms taught at ESSA. Woodworking involves a heavy dose of both left and right brain. Wood being of dense material, requires that the hands be strong, and the mind patient. Facing the challenge of safe use of the equipment can be a stretch for some.

And so we grow. We support each other and are reminded that the single greatest illusion of our shared humanity is that we are individuals and separate from each other. We become captured in our own heads, and as a result fail to understand our own breadth.

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

Saturday, July 06, 2019

lost arts?

Chris Schwarz's blog, The lost Arts Press gave a shout to this blog, in the title of his most recent post dedicated to David Esterly, author of the Lost Carving, a classic. Esterly died last month.

I received an invitation from a friend inviting me to write 5-10,000 words for a new book about what it's like to be old. I guess I've reached that milestone, having learned just a bit about standing in line at the local pharmacy.

In the meantime, I have a box making class at ESSA starting on Monday morning. There are still spaces in the class, so if you are ready to learn, show up. The details are on the ESSA website.

If you have come to the blog through a link from the Lost Arts Press, read deeply, but act. The only truly lost arts are those you've helped abandon.

We learn best when we do real things. Think for a moment about the artificiality of schooling.  You sat through years of it, as did I. I was quoted at the beginning of Matthew Crawford's book Shop Class as Soulcraft, as follows:
“In schools we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement… Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract, and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.”
Make, fix, and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

in addition...

In addition to getting ready for next week's box making class at ESSA, I'm making gradual progress on my new kerfed hinge machine.  As the table holding the box slides forward, the blade emerges to make the kerf for the hinge to fit. By adding a stop block on the right, the box can be held in perfect position so the hinge kerfs in the lid and body of the box will be in alignment.

I still need to fine tune it and install a switch to turn the motor on and off. I'm also waiting for a different motor shaft extension to arrive.

If you are interested, there are still spaces to fill in next week's box making class. You can go here to register: You need not have any prior experience. I will provide that.

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

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

calling all hands....

I had a bit of time yesterday as I prepared stock for my upcoming week of classes, to work on my kerfed hinge machine. This is a second iteration and uses a 3000 rpm TEFC motor. The point of this machine is to ease the installation of hinges that fit in thin kerfs at the back of the box.

The distinctive feature of this hinge is that it installs with much greater ease. These hinges are also cheap, and so I've used thousands over my years making boxes. I used to know roughly how many boxes I'd made by the number of hinges I ordered by the thousands. But I've lost track.

The knobs on the back of the box are for raising the motor and cutter assembly up and down to position the hinge slot a reasonable inset from the back edge of the box. The maple runners allow the top surface that supports the box to slide into and out of the cutter while held in place by a fence and stop block.

Part of the great fun of woodworking is to figure out ways to speed up and simplify the process. Part of that is training the hands to perform. Part of that is training the mind to understand. Part of that is cultivating the mind to imagine.

There were those who believed that woodworking had no place in schooling. They maintained that we would become a nation of servants to each other, without getting mussed. Clean hands, college minds. And yet the hands have their own callings. The mind alone, unsupported by inquiring hands is insufficient.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, July 01, 2019

this day

I began this blog in 2006 with the hope of encouraging an understanding of the necessity of hands-on learning. The statistics provided by google began counting in 2009 and show that I'm nearing the 2 million page view mark since that date.

The more important things are not so easily measured. A teacher never knows the full impact of a life teaching kids. A box maker never knows how long his or her boxes will last or hold interest. And a writer rarely knows whether the lives he or she has touched have been changed in any way.

In any case, I urge you to do more than read. Take what you know and teach others. Something. Anything. If you have a passion make sure that it's shared. If you want to know something and learn it well, teach it to another.

Today I'll be preparing stock for two classes next week. July 5-9 I teach box making at ESSA. On July 6 and 7, I have a parent/child class on making box guitars. There are still spaces available in each class.

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