Monday, September 26, 2022

Moving in circles...

I am in Franklin Indiana to teach at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking and am looking forward to a great week making boxes with friends, both new and old. 

While I'm here Marc Adams and his wife Suzie will be headed to Boston where he'll make an address to the American Society for Surgery to the Hand at their annual conference. 

While I'm here, my cousin Mary Lou will be visiting my wife in Eureka Springs. 

I'm reminded that things tend to move in fascinating ways, circles mostly.  I'm here, Mary Lou is there at home in my place. Her husband, Michael, my dear friend, is no longer with us, but had arranged with a friend of his, Rose Ann Reser, to translate for me, an essay by Alfredo Bosi, from Portuguese, Os Trabahos de Mao, The work of the hands. To send Marc thoughtfully on his way to the hand conference, I shared Bosi's thoughtful essay with him, for there is no more beautiful expression of what the hands do, and their importance than what I share now with you.

Os Trabaljos de Mao. The Works of the Hand--Alfredo Bosi 

 It seems to be a characteristic of the symbolic animal to make use of one part of its body to perform many different functions. The hand is an example. The hand pulls from the earth the root and the herb, gathers fruit from the tree, peels it and takes it to its mouth.

The hand catches the object, moves it, brings it into the body, throws it away. The hand pulls and pushes, gathers and scatters, squeezes and relaxes, contracts and distends, rolls up and unrolls; tightens and loosens, clears (as in clearing brush for planting), palpates, caresses, pinches, claws, squeezes, slaps, pummels; afterwards, massages the sore muscle.

The hand feels with the fingertips, palpates and presses with the flesh, scrapes, scratches, rakes (interestingly, in carpentry – the verb escarvar means “scarfs” – creates a joint to unite two pieces of lumber in one continuous piece) scarifies, picks with the fingernails.

With the knuckles, it hits. The hand opens the wound and dresses it. Ruffles the hair (or fur, animal’s coat) and smoothes it. Braids and unbraids the hair. Wrinkles and unwrinkles the paper and the cloth. Anoints and conjures, sprinkles (like baptizing?) and exorcises.

It accuses with the index, applauds with the palms, protects with the cupped hands (literally the “shell”). Allows life with a thumbs-up; and with thumbs-down, orders death. Measures length with the span of the hand (palmo) and weight with the palm (palma).

Signals with gestures the I, you, him, here, there, over there, today, yesterday, tomorrow, little, a lot, more or less, one, two, three, numbers up to ten and its multiples and fractions. No, never, nothing.

It is the voice of the mute, the voice of the deaf, and the reading of the blind. It directs the voice to rise, quiets the hubbub, imposes silence. Greets the friend, waving lightly beside the head, and in the same setting, stretches out the arm and says good-bye. Urges on, and orders a stop. Brings a child into the world and strangles the enemy.

Soaps clothing, scrubs, wrings, rinses, lays it out in the sun, gathers it from the line, smoothes the wrinkles, folds and puts it away.

The hand prepares the food. Grinds grain, peels the vegetable, picks the greens, scales fish, plucks the bird and bones it. It cleans. It squeezes to extract the juice. Pounds with clenched fist, cuts to size, mixes, kneads, flattens, rolls up, smoothes out, oils, covers up, flours, wraps, shapes, pulls apart, flours, garnishes, embellishes and serves. 

The hand throws the ball and catches, parries and strikes. Lifts it and lets it fall. The hand makes sound; beats on the leg and on the chest, marks the beat, strikes the drum and the tambourine, beats, snaps the castanets, plucks the strings of the harp and the guitar, fingers the keys of the harpsichord and the piano, grasps the bow of the violin and the cello, holds woodwinds and brass. The fingers close and open the path of the breath that comes out through the holes of the flute, the clarinet and the oboe. The hand directs the orchestra.

The hand, carrier of the sacred. Hands clasped pray, palm against palm or with laced fingers. With the hand, the faithful makes the sign of the cross. The hand, giver of the sacred. The hand mixes the salt and the water for baptism, and anoints the new Christian; the hand anoints with oil at confirmation, while the godfather’s right hand rests on the godson’s shoulder; the betrothed extend their hands to celebrate the sacrament of love and give each other rings to receive the ring of the alliance; the hand absolves the penitent from sin; the hands serve the eucharist bread to the communicants, hands consecrate the new priest; hands bring extreme unction to the dying one; and to the dead, the blessing and the prayer of peace. In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum. 

To perform so many actions, it takes only a small but flexible part of the anatomy; eight little bones in the wrist, five metacarpals, and the fingers with the lower, middle and fingertip phalanxes.

We could never describe all that the hand can do when it is extended and empowered by the tools that human ingenuity has invented in its contradance of needs and desires.

. . . In the Machine Age, has the hand perhaps lost its finest articulations with which it fitted the protuberances and recesses of the material? The workmanship, thus of necessity, diminishes or declines, and hands operate the assembly lines far away from their products. They push buttons, turn handles, connect and disconnect keys, pull and push levers, control panels, ceding to the machine tasks that they used to do. The machine, docile, and therefore violent, does exactly what the hands tell it to do, but if the operator’s muscle flinches, it also knows how to continue, demanding constant vigilance; if not, it cuts off inattentive fingers. There were 8 million work accidents in Brazil alone in 1975. 
Bosi, a poet of renown wrote this piece to urge reform in industry to protect workers from serious injuries... like those that hand surgeons are called to address. My thanks to Henrique for alerting me to Bosi, and to my cousin Michael for bringing Rose Ann into the circle of hands...
Make, fix and create...

Friday, September 23, 2022

letter holders

This week in the Clear Spring School wood shop, my Kindergarten students made letter holders, that could also be used to hold napkins at the kitchen table. There are very good reasons for kids to make useful art. It goes home with them and establishes a great relationship between home and school. When children see the things they've made celebrated by use in the home, they know that they and their work is valued and appreciated. A carefully crafted item is concrete evidence of learning. And when the parents ask their kids, "what did you do in school today?" it's a question easily answered, and the kids are very proud of their work.

For this project, I re-sawed white pine to make thinner stock for the front and back of the letter holder, and I introduced the use of coping saws to cut curved shapes. 

Re-sawing makes thrifty use of the material and makes cutting easier with the coping saw as the kids try to master a new tool. The thinner stock also allows the use of smaller nails which the kids can start themselves without pre-drilling as I did with earlier projects.

The project fits into a series I'm developing, leading the students through the normal progression of learning... From the known to the unknown, from the easy to more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract.

In the first lesson we started with straight cutting Japanese style saws, marking and following straight line cuts. By adding incrementally to the student's foundational skills, they progress in short order, even though not all were at the same starting point.

In my home wood shop, I've been sanding boxes to fill orders. Some are ready to sign and begin finishing today (at least a two day process.) I'm also nearly ready to leave for my weeklong class at Marc Adams School of Woodworking which begins on Monday.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, September 18, 2022

the effect of trees

New York City embarked on a plan to plant 20,000 new trees a year and already the addition of trees is having its effects on neighborhoods. While I'm grateful to live in a forest, even a single tree in an urban environment can make a difference, as reported in the New York Times. 

On one block in East New York, a line of trees, planted in 2009, has grown into a canopy. Neighbors gather for cards, dominoes and barbecue. “When they first came, I could touch the tops of the trees,” Jaytee Spurgeon, 55, recalls. “It makes the neighborhood better.”

When it comes to human effects on climate, scientists speculate on a "tipping point" at which the effects of CO2 become irreversible and begin accelerating out of control. If we assume that people must be brought to some minimal understanding of nature in order to understand the importance of protecting it, and as people become more and more isolated from it, will we reach a tipping point in our insensitivities at which we allow destruction of nature to proceed without protest?

As demonstrated in New York, even a single tree can make a difference. Also in the New York Times this week was an article about the use of Chestnuts to redeem areas stripped bare by coal mining.

 https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/16/climate/coal-mine-american-chestnut.html

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


Friday, September 16, 2022

values

Mattie Bergström warned that those who's hands are left untrained will be left "values damaged," and what he meant by that is that they will be left without the full and normal range of human values, and incapable of perceiving the deeper meaning of things. Values like care for the natural environment, historic preservation, art, craftsmanship and real love for each other will ring hollow for those who've been sequestered from engagement in life though failure to develop skills hands-on. 

I am reminded of the Bonwit-Teller Building in New York, that was torn down to build the Trump Tower.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4XWoirFToYn

John Baron (really Donald Trump with his voice disguised) claimed that the Art Deco sculptures Donald Trump had previously vowed to preserve, were "without artistic merit." The saving of the sculptures, previously promised to the Metropolitan Museum (where they were thought to have profound artistic merit) was delaying construction, so Trump had them destroyed. Those sculptures were conceived by artists and carved by craftsmen,  and were to be welcomed and preserved by the Met, but did that matter? It would have to a man cognizant of the full range of human values.

Those Bergström described as "values damaged" are lacking the full depth and diverse range of human values. They, knowing little else and having no solid core of humanity adopt money and power as their only driving principles. They become reckless and careless for all else.

We are left in a sad and sorry state when our leaders are drawn from among those Bergström  called "finger blind." And so, developing integrated skills and intellect of hands and mind is essential to the preservation of the quality of human life. Let's make certain that all kids develop integrated skills of hand and mind to prevent them from becoming destructive egomaniacs and putting human culture at risk.

Today in the woodshop, I'm working on small boxes made from ash with lift off lids made of various hardwoods. There's an interesting zen poem that applies. It goes: "Inch, time. Foot gem. Each moment is a precious flower that will not bloom again." If we reflect on the huge expanse of time that brought us to this moment, and then notice that we're brought to this moment by a chain of circumstances, that then lead outward from what we are doing right now, we then observe that the entire future of all things rest upon what we do now. The small boxes I make will pass through a series of hands, each person responding in some way, and in that, the entirety of our known universe is ultimately changed. Must we waste the moments we're given? 
We'd best not. Over a period of a year or more, stone carvers were engaged in creating the beautiful sculptures that Trump destroyed in minutes. Certainly a serious sign of what was to come.

Make, fix and create.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

reshaping teacher understanding

Adolf Diesterweg was a 19th century German educator and friend of Friedrich Frobel. I was reminded of him as I was perusing my recently published book Holtzwerken mit Kindern, translated from English and in which only a few words from all that German are decipherable by me. 

Diesterweg was responsible for a part of the theory Otto Salomon's Theory of Educational Sloyd in its recognition that learning must move from the known to the unknown, from the easy to more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract. What he was describing would later become known as "scaffolding."

In building knowledge in this manner, it would be essential for the teacher to understand the needs and interests of the child. And of course, given the fact that children are individuals, each with differing needs and levels of understanding, we ought to be pointed in the right direction. Sadly, the needs and interests of the individual child are brushed aside in order to establish control of the "class." And today's classes are generally too large for teachers to discern or respond to the needs and interests of the individual child.

Classroom management has become the overriding objective in most schooling. But Otto Salomon dared to question the idea of "the class." You may also question the idea of the "class" through a thought experiment in which you reflect on your own learning experience.

Say that you are sitting in a college classroom. I'll use my business law classroom from college as an example. You are sitting at your desk. The teacher begins his lecture. If you've done your reading in preparation for the class, some of what the teacher is saying rings a bell. But a question comes up in your mind. You wonder whether or not to raise your hand, and as you deliberate, even for moments, you are no longer listening to what the teacher is attempting to impart. 

My business law teacher in college used a strategy to compel us to do our nightly readings before class. He would call  upon individuals in the class and would ask us to tell in our own words, the outcome of a case. So our attentions were placed in the prayer, "Please don't call on me!!!" It was extremely embarrassing to have to admit to not having read the assignment, the confession being made before the entire class.

The teacher cannot control the attention and learning of all those 25 to 30 individual minds in the classroom that are zooming in or more likely out of his own train of thought. Add to that the fact that some didn't read the homework assignment and had very little prior experience upon which to build an understanding of the lectures content or its relevance to their lives and learning. So with those factors, one can guess that less than 50% of the students are receiving value at any given time.

Today with my Kindergarten students we began building upon last week's lesson. We made color wheels. The project involved repetition of part of what we did in last week's lesson, but to build a fresh project. 

While making note holders was a project intended to build a relationship between school and wood shop and home. The color wheels invited the kids to use markers  to decorate a wheel that can spin and blend the tones into new colors. It added drilling to the project, and allowed each student to work at their own level, with some demonstrating a higher level of sophistication in design, but with each being very pleased with their results.

So what happens when teachers are brought to an understanding of the ineffectiveness of classroom learning? You begin to talk far less and help much more.

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


Saturday, September 10, 2022

for the last 30 years.

For the last 30 years, Republican lawmakers have insisted that   1.Global warming is a hoax. 2. That if it is real, man is not the cause of it. 3. That tackling if it was real would be too costly and disruptive. 4. That the fossil fuel industry that helps also to fuel their conservative candidacies is not to blame for global warming. 

Are we finally at the point of clear understanding that our use of fossil fuels is fueling planetary destruction and disruption? An are we finally at the point where we can call out those obstructionists in politics and replace them in congress with folks capable of understanding science and willing to guide us (and the planet) toward a more sustainable future?

Jimmy Carter, when he was president, was mocked by "conservatives" for wearing a sweater in the White House, turning down the temperature by a few degrees and for putting solar panels on the roof. His idea was living more in line with the concerns of science and human responsibilities regarding nature while reducing our dependence on foreign oil that put nation at the mercy of rogue authoritarian states. Reagan was elected and promptly had the solar panels removed. To conserve was not to be an objective of a "conservative" party.

Can we finally accept the fact that we are not safe in Republican hands and defeat them all (each and every one) in the next election?

I am on the porch, looking out at our forests, the light passing through the trees as it did yesterday and the day before. When we bought this property, part of our objective was to protect it and let the trees grow large. The trees have done their work. But I wonder when others will do theirs? 

Bigger, bigger, better, better, faster, faster and never fast enough, and when will we slow down a bit and conserve the beauty that surrounds us?

When someone self-identifies as "conservative, " please ask them what they are conserving. And you'll likely find them lying through their teeth when it comes to the matters that matter most.

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

On the dangers of belief.

To see, to touch, and to believe. It seems that most human beings live in fantasies devised by others. I do so myself. I grew up within a Christian mythology. Christ could heal the lame, setting them on their feet again. That he could walk on water and feed the multitudes on only a few loaves of bread, was said and taught. He offered a means of altering the laws of Karma, that most chose to ignore, going instead for the perpetual motion of eye for eye. And within that there was at least enough confusion to plant seeds of doubt, for which I'm grateful.

I write this as I sit on the front porch, Rosie at my feet, observing the sun coming through the leaves and feeling the cool air against my skin.

The subject of belief is a curious one. We live in an age in which we're allowed to believe what we want, as that's assumed to be our right. And conflicting beliefs appear to be tearing us apart. We go to certain websites to affirm the main lines of our accepted beliefs, yet fail to open our eyes to the world that surrounds us. 

In this, I'm reminded of Pizarro's conquest of Peru. It was of course sponsored in the name of God, and so Pizarro with under a hundred mounted conquistadors and a few Catholic priests confronted Atahualpa, the emperor of the Incan empire and handed him the sacred book that they had explained to him had the ability to talk. Atahualpa fanned the pages of the book through his fingers, and finding that they had nothing to say, tossed their sacred book to the ground. At that moment in disgust, the Priests gave their blessing on attack. A merciless slaughter of Incan warriors ensued.

The irony of course, is that the Incan quipu, knotted strings recording their history, could talk as you ran your fingers down patterns of knotted thread, in vibrations felt in the finger tips. And so in the coming years most of the quipu were destroyed as was the civilization at large. After capture and confinement Atahualpa was offered ransom. The Incan people were to fill the large room in which he was held captive a number of times in both gold and silver which was delivered as carefully crafted work from all parts of empire. The gold and silver objects of enormous beauty were melted down and shipped to Spain, and with the ransom delivered, Atahualpa was executed anyway.

Isn't it odd and tragic what belief can lead us to do and how it can set us apart from each other and from the natural world as well.

Forgive me if I have not belief but that we intricately entwined with each other. Rosie lifts her eyes to gaze into the woods. My ears perk up at the sound of a siren passing through the valley below. Folks are rushing off to be of aid to each other. Instead of believing, can we simply bear witness instead? Listen, look, attend, allow ourselves to be blended in the reality of things that surround us?

The temperature here on the porch is a delight to the skin. The sky is blue. The wind velocity would be zero on the Beaufort scale, as not a leaf is turning. I don't need my iPhone to tell me this is so.

The photo is a project done by an elementary school student in wood club where they're making catapults. It started as a model cut out by a laser printer, but taken by the student in a more decorative form with additional engineering applied.

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


Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Kindergarten woodworking

I began my Kindergarten wood working class this morning and had a great time. The kids asked, "What are we making today?" And the great thing about working with this age of student is that they're excited about making any thing...

So we made note holders for them to take home and used to convey messages to each other. It is a simple project but involved sawing, hammering, and decorating. Three things that all kids love.

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

chipping away at nature.

Chipper mills in the US have been destroying southern hardwood forests in the US and are now doing the same thing to old growth forests in Europe according to this article in the New York Times: Europe Is Sacrificing Its Ancient Forests for Energy. 

The energy monsters claim that burning ancient forests is a form of green energy, but nothing could be further from the truth. It takes hundreds of years to grow a mature forest, and the burning of them is more costly to the environment than burning coal or natural gas.

In the meantime, today is my first day teaching woodworking to the Kindergarten class at the Clear Spring School. And yesterday I received copies of my Guide to Woodworking with Kids, translated into German. 

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

Monday, September 05, 2022

Lynda Barry in the New York Times

If you agree with anything I've written thus far, you need to read this article about cartoonist and creator Lynda Barry from the New York Times. 

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

Happy Labor Day.

Today we celebrate Labor Day. Ever wonder why there's no federal holiday for Management Day? There are 364 days remaining  in the year dedicated to that. 

Woodrow Wilson, as president of Princeton University had said: "We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."— Woodrow Wilson 

He was talking about class and divide and the need to sustain it through a two tier educational system. Haven't we had fun with that? 

Today I'm managing my own labor, as I do most days. I'm preparing boxes for assembly by milling slots for barbed hinges to fit. 

The idea of separating the labors of the hands from the labors of mind is not reasonable. It's a fool's errand intended to divide us into classes and hierarchy. We do best as a society when we recognize the intelligence involved in artistry and labor, and afford each person the dignity their work deserves. 

The photo shows a few box lids moving toward the assembly process. The grooves cut in the lids and sides are for barbed hinges to fit. As part of my own management process, I made a machine to assist.

Make, fix and create.

Sunday, September 04, 2022

in the woods...

With the planet being overpopulated as it is, I'm fully aware of the gifts of living where I do in the forest of Northwest Arkansas. What you see in the photo is what I see on my first brief dog walk in the AM— The sun's first light coming from behind a hill and slicing through the woods.

I have an app to recommend that's provided by National Geographic. It is called "Seek" and can be found online for your phone, too. It allows you to accurately identify individual plants from among thousands of species, and it's like walking with an expert through the forest. 

Once a plant is identified, it will provide access to a database giving additional information about that plant. And it's 100% free. 

Knowing more about each plant species allows me to know which species are invasive and it is surprising how much of our local forest has been disturbed by the introduction of species from other continents. Life is wild and its compulsion to renew itself is without surcease. 

In the meantime, nature is an incredible healing force. It pays huge dividends to immerse oneself in it, even if it requires you to have an app on your phone to do so. 

In the wood shop I've finished inlaying about 50 box lids and will begin preparing for assembly. I don't push the process as hard as I did in my younger years, but have refined the process so that much of it is easy for me, and I've galleries wanting the work.

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

Saturday, September 03, 2022

School is for....?

The New York Times has been running a series of editorials exploring "what is school for?" And this is a favorite. "School is for connecting with Nature."

What a sad and sorry place we create for future generations if we fail to connect our children with the nature that surrounds us. I am sitting on my front porch as is common for me these days in the early morning. Dog Rosie is at my feet, her eyes, nose and ears attuned to the life that surrounds us. She assists me by calling my attention to things I would have missed. 

In the wood shop I've been inlaying box lids, finishing 33 yesterday, and preparing to assemble boxes.

Yesterday friends and I were discussing our own personal overloads of things we've made. A simple solution is to make things that are useful and that get used up in time, rather than making "art," which by necessity needs to be kept safe and whole and purposely unused. That's why I often write of beautiful, useful things in that the objects we make can be both. 

While art can be hung on walls, the useful things we make that then are used become a celebration of life. 

Make, fix and create...

Friday, September 02, 2022

readiness to read

A series of editorials in the New York Times addresses the question "what is school for?" And we must admit that it serves a variety of functions in today's world, ranging all the way from baby sitter to preparing our children for a future that's completely unknown to us. One essay insisted that School is about teaching kids to read. 

When it comes to kids reading in school, some read as early as 4 years old, having read most of the beginning reading books in the library at age 5, and some are reluctant readers, and I suggest that we back way the hell off. 

In the US we begin applying pressure to read in Kindergarten. In Finland they begin formal reading in schools at about age 8. When tested in the PISA test which compares education in various countries at age 15, the Finns beat American students by a significant margin in 30% less time. In Finland, the beginning years of education are for getting the children connected, socialized, and physically active in ways that develop both mind and body.

When my mother was trained as a Kindergarten teacher, she was taught to observe signs of reading readiness. For instance, if a child could skip it suggested a readiness to begin reading. If not, it suggested that they child had not developed sufficiently in mind/body integration to read, and to apply pressure to read would not only be time wasted, but could be detrimental to the child, causing resistance to read... A costly thing to their educations and futures... a costly thing that school districts spend millions of dollars to overcome.

The simple solution is to dial back on the pressures to read, allow children to play, learn through play, be physically active in response to their learning needs. Kids actually do better at reading when they have things worth writing about.

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


Thursday, September 01, 2022

VA Box Making

Yesterday we held a special box making class for folks from the Fayetteville VA as part of their recreational therapy program. We had a great time making cedar boxes. We will have another series of classes for Veterans on Nov. 19. Registration is not open yet. You can find more information here: https://essa-art.org/events/veterans-appreciation-day/

I will be teaching. Guess what... wait for it... Box Making. 

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Holzwerken mit Kindern

My Guide to Woodworking with Kids has been translated and published in German with copies available on Amazon.de The title is Holzwerken mit Kindern:Wie Sie Spaß wecken und Wissen richtig" and it is my third book translated and published in German by the publisher, Holzwerken. The title means "Woodworking with Kids: How to have fun and pass on knowledge properly."

In the meantime, I had a fine day at ESSA making cedar boxes with a group from the Fayetteville VA. I'll share photos of that tomorrow.

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

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Wood is life.

A sawmill is closing in Hong Kong due to the government's plan for a massive homogenized renewal and development project. An article in the New York Times, Wood is Life, describes the philosophy of the owner and operator of the mill. He thinks young people could learn a great deal from wood. “I hope they’ll learn from its resilient nature and stay grounded and not run away from difficulty.”

When I've asked my students whether they want me to make things easy for them, or difficult so they learn more, they choose the latter.

In my wood shop I've been making a prototype cedar box for a Veteran's class on Wednesday  and making inlaid boxes to fill orders.

Make, fix and create.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Alfred North Whitehead

Alfred North Whitehead said in his essay on the Aims of Education


" In training a child to activity of thought, above all things we must beware of what I will call “inert ideas”—that is to say, ideas that are merely received into the mind without being utilized, or tested, or thrown into fresh combinations." 

That's where the hands come into play, for as Charles H. Hamm had noted, the mind seeks the truth but the hands discover it. Utilizing, testing, and throwing into new combinations is what the hands do best.

Whitehead had described a learning in depth process starting with romance of the idea, then the development of precision in the application of that idea, culminating in what he called "generalization" or the ability to leap toward application of an idea into fresh territory that may appear unrelated to the original application. 

Most internet learning stops short of the precision stage, in that most folks leap romantically from one idea to the next without investing energy in the development of precision. The development of precision requires application of both mind and body in the creative act. The consequence might reasonably be described as leading to a "soul infused notion," one which commands both the wakeful and sleeping mind in continuum.
 
The process Whitehead described is closely associated with the human use of metaphor to leap fro the known to the unknown, the formation of hypotheses, and involve the integration of the conscious and unconscious mind.

I share this kind of thing to counter the absurdities of the internet age, in which all things seem to be at the finger tip, and very little seems to be retained in the heart or mind.

I managed to get finish applied to the Arkansas Governor's Award for Quality base I'm making from walnut and spalted sycamore.

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

sanding miters?

I've gotten my quality award base to the point of gluing it up. Sanding will come next, then finish, then shipping to the supplier who will attach an acrylic block containing the essential information of the award. 

Cutting the miters and assembling the base reminded me of a question asked by a member of the Central Indiana Wood Workers. He asked about the need to stand miters before assembly. 

There are three good reasons to leave a well cut joint alone. First, in sanding, however much one tries to be perfect, the perfect joint will be made less perfect. Secondly, sanding dust will fill the pores of the wood, making glue less effective in securing the joint. Third, sanding adds an unnecessary step in which mistakes can be made.

How many of these hard bases have I made? I've been making them for about 20 years. Sometimes more than one will be required. Occasionally the award winner will ask for a duplicate to be made so they can share their success at a second business location.

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


Jim Thorpe

A few years ago my wife, daughter and I visited Jim Thorpe, PA, a small tourist town in the Poconos.  It is a delightful small town that got the idea that they could capitalize on the fame of the World's Greatest Athlete with whom the town had no prior connection.

There's a new biography of Jim Thorpe reviewed in the New York Times, "PATH LIT BY LIGHTNING: The Life of Jim Thorpe," by David Maraniss.    

In the meantime, I'm working on an Arkansas Governor's Award base for the Arkansas Quality Awards commission and planning for a veteran's class next week.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, August 18, 2022

CCIW

I'm in Indianapolis this week with the Central Indiana Woodworkers https://ciww.org We had great attendance last night for my presentation. It is an amazing group, very dedicated to education and service to the communities and kids in the Indianapolis area. 

Among their various activities is making thousands of toys for holiday distribution to kids. At the Indianapolis State Fair this week, they've sold thousands of dollars worth of toys and had hundreds of kids making and decorating tops.

Today and tomorrow I'll be teaching box making techniques.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Central Indiana Woodworkers

I leave by air on Wednesday to spend 3 days with the Central Indiana Woodworkers teaching short classes. I begin with an evening session with their monthly meeting. Coffee and Cookies begin at 6:30 PM August 17 with presentation and club meeting to follow. The program is described as follows: 
"Author and unique boxmaker Doug Stowe will be our guest presenter for the Wednesday, August 17, 2022 monthly meeting at the Carpenters Union 301 Hall, 3530 S Rural St., Indianapolis, IN, starting at 7:00 PM. The topic of hs presentation will be the Personal Satisfaction of Working with our Hands. Based on his most recent book, The Wisdom of our Hands, he will share his life-long journey of finding meaning and satisfaction in the woodworking craft and will talk about how woodworking can have a positive impact on communities." 
You can find more information at https://ciww.org/

My presentation will be followed by two days of classes.

I have been reading an interesting book published in 1985 called "Chain Carvers: Old Men Crafting Meaning." written by ethnographer Simon J. Bronner. In it, Bronner introduces old men living in the Indiana area and describes how work with their hands brings the men comfort, and helps them to cope with the changes taking place in their lives and in their communities. It also illustrates the way crafts extend meaning forward between generations. 

The photo from Chain Carvers shows a hand made knife similar to ones we've made at the Clear Spring School.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, August 14, 2022

fiction and the real world.

Yesterday I had a pleasant book signing and talk at the Fayetteville Public Library, and as is usually the case when speaking to the public, there were things afterwards that I wish I had said, but did not.

I was very pleased that a few old friends showed up, and new ones as well.

There is a difference in the market place between fiction and non-fiction. Fiction can change lives, but most often does not. We read fiction, not to get closer to reality, but to escape from it or to gain insight into it by seeing things from a different point of view— that of the fictional characters in the book. We often read non-fiction to gain a better understanding of things, but I think you will find it true that a better understanding does not always lead to physical change, particularly in the short term.

My book, "the Wisdom of Our Hands," is my first book in which a table saw is not needed to harvest full value, but like my earlier books, it is a how-to book, in that it describes the human potential for transforming self, family, community and human culture by crafting things of useful beauty. 

The point of the book is not mine alone to make, but yours as well. Were we each to realize and reward the hands in our thinking of things, and as we observe the lives surrounding our own we might move away from the perversion of isolated thought toward a more harmonious community of mankind.

Heather Cox Richardson wrote this morning https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/august-13-2022 about the anniversary of the Social Security Act as initially conceived by Francis Perkins.  

When asked to describe the origins of the Social Security Act, Perkins mused that its roots came from the very beginnings of the nation. When Alexis de Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America in 1835, she noted, he thought Americans were uniquely “so generous, so kind, so charitably disposed.” “Well, I don't know anything about the times in which De Tocqueville visited America,” she said, but “I do know that at the time I came into the field of social work, these feelings were real.”

And in the real world we discover that we are deeply connected, and indebted to each other. 

And so that brings me to the point I forgot to make. When we, in our educations, are brought to an understanding of the skills of others (including manual skills) and the labors through which those skills are developed, we have a least some potential of appreciating the contributions of others, even if we were to reside in the loftiest planes of business, academics or politics. That means, of course, that manual training in schools has the potential of transforming even the loftiest of institutions toward a better appreciation of each other. 

The great error in American education came when they decided that the education of the head, and the education of the hands should be separate tracks. That is, of course, something we can fix.

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

Thursday, August 11, 2022

two events...

This Saturday, August 13, 2022 from 2-3 PM I'll be at the Fayetteville Public Library for a talk, display of boxes and readings  from my new book "The Wisdom of Our Hands." The Fayetteville Public Library is located at 401 W. Mountain St. Fayetteville, 72701

On Wednesday evening, August 17, I'll begin a series of demonstrations with the Central Indiana Woodworkers in the Indianapolis area. You will find more information on their website. https://ciww.org 

I have been organizing tools and materials for a series of demonstrations. My talk on Wednesday evening August 17 will be open to the public and be held in the Carpenter's Local 301 Meeting Hall 3530 S. Rural St, Indianapolis, IN 46237 Coffee and Cookies at 6:30. Meeting and presentation at 7:00 PM.

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

Monday, August 08, 2022

the real world out there.

There is a real world out there. The Hindu concept Maya suggests that what we see is an illusion, but that's not to deny the reality of what we see, hear or touch but rather, our interpretation of it. Punch the door and your fist will hurt. Pet the cat and it will purr.  Throw the stick and the dog will chase it. The door was real. your fist is real, the pain is real, the cat is real and the sound that the cat makes is also real. The stick was real and if you're lucky the dog will bring it back.

The illusion refers to our making unreal distinctions between things that deny the complex yet simple relationships between things, drawing and redrawing those lines that keep us apart and separate from each other... lines that prevent us from seeing the real world that surrounds us. There is life and there's death, and in the non-duality of the real world, there's only life.

There is an interesting text from the zen tradition called the "Hsin Hsin Ming" that I have found influential in my own thoughts. A fragment of the short text follows: 
The Great Way is neither easy nor difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised. Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

Friedrich Froebel's Kindergarten was conceived as a means of awakening children to the richness of their surroundings in both the worlds of nature and of man. Froebel's concept "gliedganzes" meaning member-whole suggested that even though a child was an individual, he or she was also a part of the larger worlds of family, community, nation and even nature itself. 

For a time Kindergarten had become so influential that folks tried to make conventional schooling more like the real world. Due to decades of domination of education by standardized testing schemes, things have gone way off track and even Kindergarten was reshaped to be more inline with standardized testing schemes of measuring reading an math rather as opposed to integration with life.

Things have become a mess. But can be fixed. Reconnecting with the work of our own hands can help.

Make, fix and create...

 

Sunday, August 07, 2022

the world is real and the self seems abstract.

We tend to see ourselves, not from within, but as a reflection of our interactions with others. I  reach out and grasp the nearest object, and feel its weight and texture. It is a bit harder to do that with myself, so when it comes to grasping my own purpose in life, there can be a challenge. I suspect that's true for others as well.

Yesterday I shared a poem about Khing, the master carver, whose work, and the perfection of it, required work first upon himself, on the discovery of self that led to finding the perfect tree without whose participation the work would have been trivial and of little account.

The interesting thing is that when one commences upon the search for the realization of self, we discover no distinct boundaries. There are no distinct lines between me, sitting on the bench on our front porch, and the dog laying at my feet, for we are intertwined. She watches the forest as I write. If something stirs in the forest, she looks up, and my own eyes follow her gaze into the woods.

I was surprised this week that my newly arrived copy of Fine Woodworking  contains an article illustrating a technique written by another but that I had discovered, taught, and demonstrated to them when an editor was here taking photos for an article on box making. 

My first feelings were that something had been taken from me, as the technique illustrated is clearly one of my own discoveries. My second thoughts were the remembrance that we are deeply connected and indebted to each other, and it's a reminder that we can choose one of two directions in the course of our own lives. One is that of centrifugal force, moving ever outward in the loss of self. The other, inward offers the discovery of who we are.

Yesterday, I also shared a quote from D.H. Lawrence, my sharing of which was also inspired by the article in FWW. We will each be forgotten. What we share with others will live. This is the simple lesson from sitting on the porch, watching the wind flow through the trees, seeing Rosie's nose lift and pull in the aromas of life brought from distant places by that same wind ruffling the leaves. The sound of a jet flying overhead is a reminder of folks flying from one place to another, lifting bags from the overhead compartment, each on journeys of their own fabrication and isolation, and yet not fully disconnected from my own life, or from the winds rustling through the leaves of this forest.

The job of education is not that of filling heads with facts, but that of enabling kids to make and sustain connections with a broad scope, seeing themselves in others and as connected beings within the fabric of reality.

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

Saturday, August 06, 2022

warm still

"Things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into are awake through years with transferred touch, and go on glowing for long years. And for this reason, some old things are lovely warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them."—D.H.Lawrence

We will each be forgotten at some point, and yet what we've created and passed along selflessly may live in other hands through extended self.

Parker Palmer, suggests this poem as an allegory for teaching.
Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand
Of precious wood. When it was finished,
All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be
The work of spirits.
The Prince of Lai said to the master carver
"What is your secret?"

Khing replied, "I am only a workman:
I have no secret. There is only this:
When I began to think about the work you commanded
I guarded my spirit, did not expend it
on trifles, that were not to the point.
I fasted in order to set
My heart at rest.
After three days fasting,
I had forgotten praise or criticism.
After seven days
I had forgotten my body
With all its limbs.

"By this time all thought of your Highness
And of the court had faded away.
All that might distract me from the work
Had vanished.
I was collected in the single thought
Of the bell-stand.

"Then I went to the forest
To see the trees in their own natural state.
When the right tree appeared before my eyes,
The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt.
All I had to do was to put forth my hand
And begin.

"If I had not met this particular tree
There would have been
No bell stand at all.

"What happened?
My own collected thoughts
Encountered the hidden potential in the wood:
From this live encounter came the work
Which you ascribe to the spirits."
Simple, elegant... most of the work was on self, then with the self in control and alignment, the work begins. The results are ascribed to the spirits, and the teacher's job is to bring forth that which is unique.
Make, fix and create... Assist others in doing likewise.

Friday, August 05, 2022

the wisdom of feet.

My trip to Walden Pond lead me to do some reading of Thoreau's "Paradise  (To Be) Regained" in which he reviewed a book (at Emerson's suggestion) written by John Adolphus Etzler, a German engineer who proposed a scheme through which men would no longer have to do diddly squat. Etzler in his book, The Paradise within Reach of All Men, without Labour by powers of Nature and Machinery (Pittsburgh, 1833), proposed a utopian scheme in which the sun, the tides and wind would be harnessed to do all things, much the same way engineers are proposing now. Thoreau found a few things wanting in Etzler's scheme and it's best to read it yourself, as you can do here: https://gutenberg.org/files/63459/63459-h/63459-h.htm not just for a view of modern times through an earlier lens but for additional insight into the thoughtful mind of an American visionary.

I puzzled over this from Thoreau's essay:

"What says Veeshnoo Sarma? He whose mind is at ease is possessed of all riches. Is it not the same to one whose foot is enclosed in a shoe, as if the whole surface of the earth were covered with leather?"

Do we put our minds at ease by limiting our experience of nature and of life? And is such "ease" a richness or an erasure of riches? Etzler's scheme was proposed to eliminate work, when work is a richness of life, and to propose the mind at ease as possession of riches, is to ignore the richness of the mind at work, fulfilling its true purpose.

This last spring some of my students at the Clear Spring School began abandoning foot wear, choosing to go barefoot instead, just as I and my sisters and friends did when living in the south. At winter's end, off went the shoes and we began to "toughen our feet," so that we could walk on rocks and hot pavement without feeling too much pain from the effects of engagement in the real surface of things.

At Walden Pond, my daughter took off her shoes to "get her feet wet" a symbolic thing that implies getting more deeply into the reality that surrounds us. Th photo shows one of many places along the shore of Walden Pond provided to do so. Etzler, finding a few investors in his utopian scheme led them to build colonies in South America, getting their feet wet as they died of tropical diseases and starvation. Etzler survived but disappeared from public record. Thoreau's reflections on Etzler remain informative as technocrats try to make things easy just as Etzler proposed in 1833.

Make, fix and create...


Thursday, August 04, 2022

Paradoxical counterproductivity

Ivan lllich plays a small role in my book The Wisdom of  Our Hands, as I mentioned in my chapter on Tools, the need that we place emphasis on tools that offer what Illich called "conviviality." There's an excellent article about Illich in the summer edition of American Affairs: https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2022/05/the-corruption-of-the-best-on-ivan-illich/

Illich’s examination of schooling helped lead him to a broader thesis he called “paradoxical counterproductivity.” This was a dynamic that took hold “whenever the use of an institution paradoxically takes away from society those things the institution was designed to provide.” It is not simply that school fails to impart knowledge; it also degrades and cor­rupts knowledge by enclosing it within the system of self-perpetuating rituals and perverse incentives other social critics have designated “credentialism.” Anyone who has taught will be familiar with the type of student who hasn’t the slightest interest in the subject matter but an intense concern with how to get an A. Whatever their other faults, such students are proceeding from a realistic view of the institution they are operating within, which has replaced learning with artificial signs of it.

Illich was controversial on the right due to his being identified as a socialist, and criticized on the left due to some easy to make misunderstandings having to do with a book he wrote on gender. While women were necessarily asserting their equality in the workplace, Illich was responding to the degradation of both men and women as tools of the economy, for surely we are each so much more. In the commonly held view, we are tools to be bought and sold to profit those who have the most money. But we are more than that, and Illich was attempting to point that out. The article mentioned above suggests Illich's work may reaching its "hour of legibility." I hope that is the case.

The point of course is that there are those things we do for money, and those things that we do for joy, and we're extremely lucky when they overlap and intersect, and we're even luckier when we are able to assist others in finding that same concurrence. Unfortunately, in our current economy, it's not often the case. All seem slaves to the wage one way or another, and despite attempts to bring change, for most women and men it's become worse.

I'm getting ready for classes with the Central Indiana Woodworkers on August, 17, 18 and 19. I'll share information about signing up later in the week. The image above illustrates the dignity of work and is from Otto Salomon's Educational Sloyd suggesting the value of woodworking for all students.

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

Monday, August 01, 2022

stabilizing logs at Bandsaw

I have a quick tip in this month's issue of American Woodturner Magazine, the publication of the American Association of Woodturners. The tip concerns stabilizing logs on the bandsaw to enable a safer cut. There are various jigs that you can buy, but I offer a simpler approach that doesn't require waiting for the UPS truck to arrive. People have wondered what I'll do with myself after retiring from teaching at the Clear Spring School But there're still things to teach to both children and adults, and a variety of ways that I'm offered to share what I've learned. 

If you are an experienced woodturner, these photos from the magazine (originally from my shop) may tell you all that you need to know. To get the magazine on a monthly basis, become member of the AAW.

Make, fix and create...

Homo economicus

The term homo economicus is the assertion by some that the purpose of man is to engage in commerce, the buying and selling of stuff. What a despicable assertion that is, for it views human beings in far too narrow a light. The idea of course is that if you have enough money, you get what you want because other folks are so hungry for money they will give you whatever you want if you offer enough of it. Would that we were more like the Dutch. To be average is good enough. To fit in to your community as a member in full, without having to buy your way in is cause for celebration at all levels.

Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men in the world, decided to build a half billion dollar yacht for himself (without actually lifting a finger, of course), and the company building the yacht did so in a ship yard from which one cannot reach the sea in such a tall ship without dismantling a hundred plus year old bridge. The Dutch people said no. And I love that the richest man in the world can't just buy whatever he wants. The article describing this turn of events is in the New York Times. And I'm cheering for the Dutch. The photo from the New York Times shows the bridge that stands between Bezos' big toy boat and the sea.

In the mid 1800's, a man by the name of John Adolphus Etzler wrote a utopian book about technology and the power of the earth in the form of sun, winds and tide, The Paradise within the Reach of all Men, without Labor, by Powers of Nature and Machinery: An Address to all intelligent men, in two parts (1833). Emerson gave a copy of the book to Thoreau asking him to read it and comment upon it, which he did in a text called, "Paradise (To Be) Regained."  

It is worth reading and noting that the power to do all things may be best reserved for this who may have evolved beyond the condition of the common man, beyond greed, beyond avarice, and beyond self-importance, and in this case, I'm not talking about the founder of Amazon, but rather those danged Dutch who value something more than the big bucks. In Thoreau's text he concludes by making reference to love. I'll not quote but urge you to read it on your own. You'll find direct similarities between Etzler's proposals and those who now seek to accomplish the same thing, realizing the power of the earth to keep them from ever having to lift fingers, and failing to realize that it's through lifting fingers and doing real work that our character and intelligence are formed, and perhaps also lifting fingers is how we discover love.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, July 30, 2022

St. Joseph the Worker

A  new Catholic college is opening next year in Ohio that aims at equipping students for careers in the trades while also providing a four year degree in Catholic Studies. Makes sense to me.  As Rousseau had noted, when putting young persons in a wood shop, their hands will work to the benefit of their brains. They will become philosophers while thinking themselves only craftsmen. 

Such a scheme would offer both intelligence and humility, with the latter being too often lacking in the divide between academics and the trades.  Judgement stands as a barrier between social classes. A point I attempted to make in my book Wisdom of Our Hands, is that we each have direct responsibilities to encourage the growth of hand skills, for they are of direct impact on the character and intelligence of our nation.

The new Catholic College of St. Joseph the Worker promises a low cost college education at a time when education costs leave students carrying a staggering debt load and leave them poorly equipped to pay it off. 

https://www.collegeofstjoseph.com

A recent review of my new book on Amazon noted: 

"Listen to Doug's hands, they are a voice of sanity 

"Doug distills the practical wisdom that comes from a lifetime of experience into an enjoyable, personal and reflective read. If you make things, his experience will resonate. If you don't make things, here is a look into what's possible if you do (spoiler alert: very good things)."

Make, fix and create...

Friday, July 29, 2022

at Walden pond 2

The photo shows me standing in the doorway of a replica of Thoreau's cabin, taken by my wife, Jean. If you want to know more, there are links to many of Thoreau's published works on the Wikipedia website. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_David_Thoreau

All  worth thinking about, as how many of us might benefit from taking a more direct view of the complexities in which we've become embroiled?

Make, fix and create...


 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Walden pond.

Today  my wife, my daughter Lucy and I visited Walden Pond. I know Thoreau would be surprised to see as much activity on the lake he loved but even then there were changes afoot.

Today there were bathers on the beaches, and paddle boards at both ends of the lake. But it is still, and never-the-less, a place of great beauty. Even in Thoreau's time trains would pass by at one end of the lake, and there was one today as we walked the trail to his cabin site and around the circumference of the place. 

By the replica of his cabin, a bronze statue of Thoreau appears to contemplate his hand held in front. I urge you to do the same. In these complex times, we're still human beings and given a chance are very much like the man who built a cabin the woods. May we each seek a simpler, more meaningful life. 

Make, fix and create...



Thursday, July 21, 2022

Museum of Eureka Springs Art

Today an important announcement was made about the formation of the Museum of Eureka Springs Art, MESA. We have a board, non-profit status and a place for the museum to exist for a few years while we get it off its feet. Founding a museum to celebrate our art has long been a dream among many here, so this is an important step.

From the press release:
The recently formed Museum of Eureka Springs Art group has secured a space at the Eureka Springs Community Center in what has long been known as the Highlander Room. (Highlanders, you remember it as your old cafeteria!)

The museum will not occupy the space until renovations on the community center’s former band room. Grants have written to transform the former band room into usable space for classes and events.

The museum itself is a cause for celebration! “Our community has waited for a long time, actually it’s past due, to really recognize the great contributions made by the artists here," said business owner and artist Jim Nelson. The founding museum board consists of Steve Beacham, Glenn Crenshaw, Lucilla Garrett, Jim Magee, Jim Nelson, Elise Roenigk and Doug Stowe.

The museum seeks to promote and preserve the beautiful works executed by past and present artists. “In a town that flows with history, art is part of the stream. From the early days of photography and visitors paintings to an art community in the wartime era, to the flowering movement of the art galleries in the 1970s to the present day, Eureka‘s art is part of the lifeblood of our community," said Beacham, museum board chair.

As the museum grows from this simple start, there will be many ways in which the artists and art collectors of Eureka Springs can participate. The photo shows members of the Eureka Springs Community Center board with members of the new board from the Museum of Eureka Springs Art.

Make, fix and create...