Saturday, May 27, 2017

last night...

My wife and daughter and I arrived in Portland last night to attend the wedding of a niece. It was late and we hoped to catch the last train to our hotel. Unfortunately, the train was delayed. There had been an anti-muslim incident in which two men were killed. Three men had intervened when an angry man was harassing two muslim women on the train. The angry man attacked, leaving two dead.

One must wonder what kind of world we have on our hands. There is a relationship between hateful speech and hateful acts. And we have choices to make. Do we train the hands in service of humanity or do we clench them as fists and bludgeon each other? Those who are engaged in the making of useful beauty are too busy for anger. The party in power seems to not care one way or the other.

So what's so special about wood?  It’s lovely. You can craft beautiful and useful objects directly from the most basic of raw materials. It unites us with the natural world, and invites us into a profound relationship with nature. Objects whittled or sawn or shaped from it, if cared for, can last a thousand years or more. There is absolutely no limit to what you can learn from it, things even about yourself. And yes, it does grow on trees.

Make, fix, and create...

Friday, May 26, 2017

Plein Air

Our Eureka Springs School of the Arts concluded our week long Plein Air Festival last night with a display of artist's works.

I  purchased this lovely view of one of my favorite things in Eureka, Perkins Mill. It will hang in my office when I have a bit of time to rearrange things. What you don't see in the picture is that within Perkins Mill are all the old wonderful tools, line shafts, belts and diesel engines that were used in the making of Eureka.

If I had a million dollars to buy it and another million to protect it in perpetuity, I would. It is the most important structure in Eureka Springs and rarely noticed. Perkins Mill and Lumber Company was involved in much of the construction and preservation that took place in Eureka Springs for over a hundred years. It is a humble, industrial building but a symbol of creativity and meaningful labor.

The painter of this work, Marty Benson, received an award as best new beginner. It is hard to believe that Plein Air painters can do such lovely work in a single day. Throughout the week painters were in town on street corners and in various odd places, where-ever the view captured their attentions. Rain or shine, We are enriched by the arts.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in finding the value of learning likewise.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

the necessity of doing it.

Today is the Celebration of the Child at Clear Spring School. In addition to music and performances, each child will be honored for their qualities that make them special in our small community.

President Obama was in Germany yesterday talking about education. Contending that poor education policies breed inequality, Obama said that:
“no country will be successful if it leaves half of its children... uneducated and on the sidelines. We have to think of them as all of our children. If Malia and Sasha are doing well but the majority of their peers are not, that’s gonna affect their lives in some damaging way.”

“The good news is that we know what to do, the bad news is that we haven’t convinced everybody of the necessity of doing it,”
Stupidity is alive and well. There are many who think that by ignoring the needs of particular children everything will be OK. But it will not. We have terrorism in the world that can affect even the most sheltered and cherished of our kids because we have stupidity and poverty.

Blog reader René, translated the principles of Sloyd into German as follows:
Prinzipien der persönlichkeitsbildenden, handwerk-orientierten Erziehung:
  • Setze bei den Interessen des Kindes an.
  • Arbeite dich vor vom Bekannten zum Unbekannten,
  • vom Leichten zum Schwierigen,vom Überschaubaren zum Komplexen,
  • vom Konkreten zum Abstrakten.
The point is that we've known about effective education since Comenius. And yet we appear to have chosen instead to run our children through  educational canning factories as though they are cans to be filled with certain things. And the children of immigrants or of the poor and in other parts of the world? The conservative Republican attitude seems to have become, "who cares?" But we must care.

Make, fix, create, and accept the responsibility of helping others to learn likewise.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

a questionable cut

What you see in the photo is not good. The young woman with her shop teacher or a fellow student standing over appears to be getting ready to free hand a board through the table saw. I hope this is not the case, as it should not be. Safety requires that she use the table saw's miter gauge or a sled to make the cut. If she is using the fence to control the length of the cut, the risk of kickback is extremely high. If she is simply going to stick the wood into the blade her chances of an accurate cut are null and the risks of serious injury are high.

The picture is from a web page advertising Concordia University's online industrial arts teacher program. Other than the photo that screams STOP!!! The page offers useful information for anyone wanting to become an industrial arts teacher and asks:
Who makes a good industrial arts teacher? People who are:
  • Good with their hands
  • Fanatical about problem solving
  • A compulsive tinkerer
  • Sociable and easy to talk to
  • Patient and resourceful
  • Capable of motivating and inspiring students
  • Organized and careful about time management
  • Devoted to service and education
  • Thoughtful about interacting with people from diverse backgrounds
  • Qualified with a degree in an education-related field
The web page further suggests:
Becoming an industrial arts teacher requires a high level of skill in two areas. First, you must have mastery of the industrial arts you plan to teach. Second, you must have expertise in teaching itself. No matter how skillful you are as a carpenter, you won’t succeed as an industrial arts teacher if you can’t teach woodworking skills to others.
I hope everyone understands that teaching industrial arts requires much more than online learning. Assuring safe practices (both in teaching and making) requires actual experience. One of the best ways to assure safe learning and safe teaching is to take a class. Steve Palmer's 3 day class at ESSA would be a good starting point.

This is my last day of teaching for this school year. I begin preparing for adult summer classes.

Make, fix, create,and make way for others to learn likewise.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Orka du?

The first supper.
I continue to study both Norwegian and Swedish using the program Duolingo.

Orker du is a Norwegian phrase and according to Duolingo it means "Do you have the energy." According to Google translation it means "Do you breathe?" or "Do you work?"

The Swedish phrase Orka du, according to Google means simply, "Can you?"  And I must say, "Yes, we can!"  It's not just because we breathe that we can, but because we do and have practiced doing until we've become better at it. Together, we can make the world a better place, and transcend the selfishness that holds us back.

Yesterday the electricians turned on the lights at the new Eureka Springs School of the Arts wood working studio. I can assure you that a lot more than breathing has been going on. Now we have plumbing, and lights, and soon will be able turn on any number of power tools at the same time. We are aiming toward the opening day of June 4, 2017. Everything will not be perfect at that point, as it will take some time to put everything in tip top shape. Today I plan to go out and assemble some tools.

Our first wood turning class using all new lathes and turning tools in our new building is nearly full at this time.

Our maiden voyage class in the bench room and machine room will be a three day class in woodworking techniques taught by Steve Palmer, furniture maker from St. Louis. http://essa-art.org/workshops/wood/basic-wood-working/ There are still openings in that class that we hope to fill. Steve has taught before at ESSA and has received glowing reviews from his students at ESSA.  His class will cover the basics of safe and appropriate tool use  and absolutely no prior experience is required. I plan be there for part of it to assist. Students will carry home lovely wood art as evidence of what they have safely learned.

At that time I will have just returned from classes at the Marc Adams School and will be preparing for my own 5 day class in box making.

I invite you to join us. Steve's class would be a good introduction to woodworking, and woodworking is worth being introduced to.

The image above is of our publicity photo for the grand opening of our new woodworking complex and for our incredible edible fundraising event on June 4. It features woodturning tools used as forks, and a Lee Valley workbench as our lovely table.  The bowls holding fruit are made by Les Brandt.

While the image may vaguely resemble the famous painting, the last supper, there is more serious painting going on this week in Eureka Springs as the Eureka Springs School of the Arts hosts our second annual Plein Air Festival http://essa-art.org/

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

the tempo of human labor

A while back I read an article about Marcin Jakubowski's Factor e farm in Bloomberg Business week. Jakubowski is working on  "open source" mechanical equipment that can be made from readily accessible junk. I am also remembering my summer visit with Bill Coperthwaite. Both Coperthwaite and Jakubowski were driven by a goal of regaining a necessary democratic distribution of human resources. Both were concerned with the tools of civilization.

If you were to have known Bill at an earlier time when his imagination had been captured by the huge power supply potential of his mill pond tidal basin, at Machiasport, Maine, it might have appeared that he and Jakubowski were speaking the same language. But that was before Coperthwaite who died in an auto accident in 2013 discovered the powers of his own hands. While Jakubowski is concerned with tractors, Bill was working on the crooked knife, a democratic axe, block knives and wheel barrows: things that can be handled through the energy of man. You can learn more about Coperthwaite, by using the search function on my blog: http://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com

Human beings these days seem to have become unfamiliar with the rhythmic potentials of our own bodies. Give a kid a chisel, and he wants to drive it straight into the wood in a single whack, not realizing that work is most easily accomplished through rhythmic (and thoughtful) application of force. By dividing work into smaller increments, human beings can have tremendous power. The illustration above is from Rudolfs J. Drillis' "Folk Norms and Biomechanics" and shows the optimum work tempo for man. Don't expect others these days to make such observations or to be interested in such things. We have reached the point of foolishness in which human labor and the productive capacities of our own bodies are things to be escaped rather than studied and cherished.

A poem from Two Hundred Poems for Teachers of Industrial Arts Education Compiled by William L. Hunter, 1933 tells a bit of the story

The Potter
The potter stood at his daily work,
One patient foot on the ground;
The other with never slackening speed
Turning his swift wheel around.

Silent we stood beside him there,
Watching the restless knee,
'Til my friend said low, in pitying voice,
"How tired his foot must be!"

The potter never paused in his work,
Shaping the wondrous thing;
'Twas only a common flower pot,
But perfect in fashioning.

Slowly he raised this patient eyes,
With homely truth inspired;
"No, Marm, it isn't the foot that works,
The one that stands gets tired!"
-- Author unknown
I am finishing my school year at the Clear Spring School and preparing for summer classes. I've a lot more to do to prepare the new ESSA wood shop for an opening celebration, June 4.

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

Sunday, May 21, 2017

volunteers...

Larry, Sam, Ken, Buz, Mike, Suzanne, Bill, Steven, Les, Cliff and Dan. With these volunteers I spent the day Saturday, cleaning the new wood shop at ESSA and assembling our new work benches and various machines. Even with a dozen of us at work, we still have more work to do. But I was amazed and pleased at our progress. I may be able to work a bit more on Tuesday and Wednesday of this next week.

Outside the shop, we've accumulated a huge pile of cardboard.

Pictures of our work day are on our ESSA Facebook page.
My thanks to all the volunteers. It is a remarkable thing to be a part of such a fulfilling enterprise.

Today is Books in Bloom, the small town literary festival that  my wife founded with friends and the Carroll and Madison Library Foundation.

Last night at the Books in Bloom author's reception I talked with a friend who works with "Gifted and Talented" students.  I was curious about the means used to identify those students who fit the program. It is my own belief that almost all children are gifted in special ways and that their gifts deserve to be recognized within schools. That does not happen often enough in schools designed from the outset to run students through in large numbers. As much as I admire all teachers, we can use reading as an example to explore the system at large.

In the US we begin applying pressure to read in Kindergarten. In Finland, students begin reading in second or third grade and by the time they are tested in the international PISA study, they far surpass American readers in 30 percent less time. And so what do Kindergarten, first and second grade teachers in Finland do instead of making their students read and do homework? Perhaps they are helping to identify and awaken their students' many and diverse gifts beyond those of reading and math.

More reading here: http://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com/2015/10/disingaged-and-difficult.html

Make, fix, create, and improve the chances that others learn likewise.