Monday, March 31, 2008

getting caught up

I know that over the past several weeks I have been neglecting my blogging chores. But the time has been spent constructively away from the keyboard. I have been spending even more time in the shop than ever in a spate of creativity that just won't let up. I feel the need to take advantage of that feeling while it lasts, so other things have to take a backseat for while. Just to prove that I'm not just talking, but walking the walk, so to speak, here are some pictures of a couple recently completed projects.

This is a six sided box made of Maple with Oak inlays and an Oak trimmed top. What do you call a six sided object? I'm at a loss there. Anyway, this box is just a box in a shape I wanted to explore. It stands 6" high and is 4.5" wide. It is one of what I call Treasure Boxes--boxes that can hold your little treasures like jewelry or anything else you want to keep handy, but out of sight.



This sculpture is called simply "Shell". It is made of laminated Pine pieces with deliberately contrasting grains to give it a multi-faceted look and dimension when the light shines and reflects on the various pieces. It is really quite subtle and beautiful. The overall dimensions are 8"x13".



I have been also spending some time getting an online shop organized so that I can make some of my work available to anyone interested in buying. It takes a bit more energy and organization than I at first anticipated. More details when I finally get going with it.

And now, since I have three more projects in the works down in the workshop, I better get back to work. I do really enjoy it too much, though, to call it work.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

interminable

Ok, what’s wrong with this picture……I am sitting in my living room, a fire is crackling in the fireplace, and I am looking out the window at a raging snowstorm. Sounds perfectly normal for a late afternoon in January, doesn’t it? Except this is EASTER WEEK IN LATE MARCH. I should be out on the golf course right now. But the golf course has more snow showing than grass. The lake at the cottage is still frozen solid. People are still ice fishing there for crying out loud. I should be fertilizing the lawn this week. Instead I am still scraping away the snow so the poor little dog can get out there and squat without freezing her little ass. This is the everlasting winter. I, for one, have had enough already.

Friday, March 21, 2008

spring on hold

Here we are, deep into the second day of Spring, watching the snow outside blowing sideways, with the real possibility that we will be deep into the throes of renewed winter if it keeps up much longer. We were just getting used to seeing the grass that had been buried for the past nearly five months finally emerge from under the melted snow cover. The grass may have been brown and lumpy, but it was grass and not snow and therein lies its appeal. Now I am faced with the necessity of firing up the snowblower once again instead of getting the lawnmower prepped for another season of warmth and green grass.

In years past, and in our collective imaginations, Easter was the real harbinger of Spring. People would don their new spring finery and parade down main street strutting before each other like peacocks intent on garnering the approval and envy of the lesser beings along the way. Such an ideal gentility seems wondrously quaint and certainly unattainable today. This Easter any finery will be shrouded by parkas and overcoats, scarves and galoshes and left to our imaginations.

This change in weather, from the gentler temperatures of early Spring and the sunlight of longer days, back to the harshness of winter snow and cold, has a profound affect on my psyche. I find myself tumbling down into the muck of depression while trying to deal with the muck of heavy snow. I was planning on getting the golf clubs out this weekend and maybe hit a few balls at the range or maybe just swing the club in the backyard on that brown and lumpy grass, but that intent is now buried deep, back in the far reaches of my mind, as inaccessible to me as the grass in the yard. Disappointment at having to put off such pleasures only makes the snow that much heavier.

Still, while the snowfall today is a backward step in the march toward Spring, I will try to make the best of the situation by spending some productive time in the workshop. I can’t be outside enjoying the natural pleasures that I was hoping for so I might as well do my best to ignore the ugliness out there and create my own world of beauty inside. And while I may have to go out there and interact with the artic conditions at some point, in the meantime I can just pretend that all is well and that the warmth I hope for is just hibernating a little longer.

Spring really is just around the corner. It’s just that the corner seems a long ways away just yet.

Monday, March 17, 2008

misplaced trust

The recent Eliot Spitzer saga of depravity has gotten me to wondering lately why we are so prone to investing an inordinate amount of trust and belief in the goodness and character of our leaders. We, as a society, seem to indulge in the notion that those whom we elect to public office and those whom we trust to run the businesses we rely on, are above reproach and have only the finest of motives and the good of the people they serve at heart. Then, when those trusted officials prove to be flawed and even deviously perverted, we react with shock at the audacity of their transgressions.

Why do we expect more from those people than we do of any other person? We should anticipate a closet filled with skeletons of past misdemeanors being stuffed with new felonies by those we expect to be above reproach. Instead of praising and blessing their efforts at public governing and business management, we should be expecting the proverbial other shoe to fall with a deafening thud when their foibles, idiosyncracies, and peccadilloes come to light. Then we would merely shake our heads at the hubris they show in flaunting their disdain for the morality and ethics that we assume accrue to public office. Lower expectations lead to lower shock value. It would be far easier to tsk-tsk the sexual and ethical missteps if we expect them to happen than to crumble under the weight of revelation when we anticipate a higher code of conduct from those in power.

History, especially recent history, has shown our trust in the goodness and morality of our elected representatives to be sorely misplaced. The list of senators and congressmen involved in questionable sexual activities is long and depressing. That the list includes a former president only accentuates the pervasive lack of moral fiber that infects those who aspire to leadership roles. There seems to be a notion among that ilk that the general rules of proper conduct do not apply to them, that their public service exempts them from following the rules we all adhere to. Reckless conduct and the notion that they won’t be caught acting recklessly, is a trait that we would be well served to breed out of our elected officials.

I also have to question the saintly forbearance that the wives of those miscreants show in their public appearances, standing stoically behind their man on the dais while he admits to his crimes and asks for forgiveness. Most normal wives would have hung the lecher by his testicles, drawn and quartered him, chopped him into chum, and fed him to the sharks. I find the show of tolerance and forgiveness to be disingenuous at best and delusional at worst. But I suppose that show of solidarity is a last gasping effort to retain some dignity in a situation that calls for screaming and stabbing. While love and the vow to endure through all things good and bad may be a factor, the show of devotion to such moral criminals is beyond any reasonable expectations.

So I, for one, have given up any hope that our leaders are a cut above the guttersnipes they keep hidden behind their righteous facades. It is only a matter of the time it takes muckraking investigators to uncover the private actions we don’t really want to know about to tumble the chosen ones from their pedestals.
Fall they will. It’s only a matter of when.

Friday, March 14, 2008

the process

I spend a lot of time in my workshop. I am a woodworker. I have this compulsion to create things out of wood. I don’t always know what I will be doing when I enter that world, but I always end up doing something that leads to a result that I didn’t see coming when I started out. Once I start down a particular path I almost always stay the course until a satisfactory result is achieved.

I’m not one who can sketch out a drawing of what I want to create and then follow that plan to its logical and preordained conclusion. The ideas are ricocheting around inside my head and eventually one manages to escape those confines and sparks a feverish bout of activity. The inspiration can come from any source—something I saw, something I read, something someone said to me. And often the inspiration comes from a chunk of wood that has been lying on the workbench or standing in a corner unnoticed and hidden by other neglected chunks of wood. Suddenly that particular piece of scrap becomes the centerpiece of the next sculpture/artifact.

I don’t know if that seemingly random process of creativity makes me less or more an artist. I know there are some purported artists who draw detailed studies of whatever they intend to create and then follow that plan carefully until they have the finished product in hand. That, to me, would make the creative process tedious, a chore. I like the idea that what I do is mostly spontaneous and surprising to me even while I am thinking about where the process is leading. I like being able to make spur of the moment decisions that change the course of the work and lead down unexpected paths. That way the end result is often a surprise and delight to me.

I may start out with the intention of making, say, a box. Then I search through the materials at hand for something worthy of being a box. Then when I have found some likely materials, I decide how big to make the box. Once size is determined I think about how to manipulate the materials chosen so that they will result in a box that is not just functional but pleasing to look at. All through that process decisions are made that affect the outcome. Some decisions are found to be wanting and must be dicarded or revised. Some decisions lead to marvelous and unexpectedly beautiful and wondrous results. The important thing to me is the process. The result is a mere byproduct of that creative process.

So with that in mind, here is the result of one of those random creative processes. I thought I would make a box. Then I decided to make a box in a box. Then I thought it would be a little box. One thing lead to another and the result was this little box of Maple and Walnut that is meant to hold business cards. What makes it even more special is that it became a birthday present for a good friend. It fulfilled all the requirements of a successful endeavor—it is beautiful, functional, was wonderful to make, and appreciated by the recipient.



I can’t wait to get back into the shop to see what will happen next.

If you want to see some of the other results of my creative process, click on the gallery link in the sidebar. That will take you to my "After The Sawdust Settles" site. I am working on finding a way to offer these artworks and artifacts for sale. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 10, 2008

suckered

The way it’s supposed to work is like this: A store offers certain goods for sale, advertises those goods in various media, maybe discounts them with coupons or special promotions of some kind, and then throws its doors open to the buying public, who, enticed by the advertising, willingly enter the store free of admission charge, welcomed enthusiastically by the merchant. Works pretty well I’d say. Been that way throughout the history of capitalism. So how come some of us, actually a lot of us, are suckered into paying an admission charge to see the same goods all in one place under the umbrella of some cobbled together association of merchants who are all in the same business.

I admit to being one of those suckers. Yesterday I went with my son Jon to the golf show here in town. Cost me $14 bucks for the two of us to get in the door. Once inside we were surrounded by like-minded individuals who get suckered just like we did. What did we see there for the admission price? All the golf club manufacturers touting their latest innovations in equipment, a bunch of golf course representatives for courses that the majority of us can’t afford to play, and various merchants selling the same golf balls and golf shoes and golf equipment that we can see for the same prices at our local golf shops and sporting good stores.

Granted, there were some things at the show that you won’t get anywhere outside that particular environment. Like a putting contest and a hole in one contest and chipping and pitching contest. Of course all those contests cost you another five bucks if you want to participate. And no one ever comes close to winning any of them. Talk about suckers.

Naturally, a lot of the items for sale at the show are discounted to make you feel like you’re getting a bargain. But most of the discounted clubs, for instance were last year’s models that were overstock cluttering up the merchants’ stores. The latest innovations were never marked down. I did buy a box of golf balls for $21 that normally go for $24. So I only paid four bucks over the in-store price when you figure in the cost of admission to the show. Am I a savvy shopper or what.

The total dollar outlay for the day came to $55--$5 for parking, $14 for two admissions, $10 for two 16 oz beers, $5 for some practice balls, and $21 for golf balls. And that was squandered in only two hours. Priceless? The two hours I spent with my son.

I could have seen the same golf clubs, golf balls, shoes, and other equipment just by going to the local pro shop. I guess spending money needlessly makes me feel special. I can’t speak for the other couple thousand golfers who attended the show. Can we all be that special?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

end of an era

Brett Favre retired today from the Green Bay Packers. Only Packer fans can feel the overwhelming sense of emptiness that announcement brings. We have experienced the joy, and occasional anguish, of his play on the field for almost twenty years and letting that go is going to be difficult. His record setting career was a thrill to witness. There will never be another like him in my lifetime. Having wondered at the incredible show of skill and competitiveness that he brought to the football field, I can only wonder now how it will be to cheer for the Packers without number 4 leading them.

The biggest fear we all have now is that the Packers will embark on another 25 year slog through mediocrity like we endured through the 70's and 80's. Everyone loves a winner. Losing makes it hard to love a team when tolerance is the deepest emotion we can muster.

Favre made winning a habit and an expectation for Packer fans. Will we be able to embrace his successor if that player doesn't measure up to the standard we have become accustomed to? Maybe we expect too much from our gridiron heroes. After all, it's only a game. But Brett Favre made "only a game" into a celebration of playful athleticism. He brought back the fun we all experienced at some point in our llives when we were out in the neighborhood parks and empty lots, choosing up sides and then running and throwing and catching and breathing hard with the joyful exertion that "playing" football was for us. Favre didn't "work" football, he "played" football. It wasn't a job, it was playtime. He may be remembered as much for that boyish exuberance at playing a game than he will for all the records he set while on the field.

All the local television and radio stations are, of course, running exhaustive retrospectives today of his life and football career. It has all taken on the air of euolgy. Come on, people, the guy's not dead. He's just moving on to the next phase of his life. Now he'll be able to spend quality time mowing his lawn and working on his golf game. What could be better than that? So this fan just wants to say thanks, Brett, for everything. May the rest of your life be filled with the smell of newly cut grass and lots of birdies on the golf course.