Thursday, July 20, 2017


Those who develop new technologies are often narrowly focused and may lack an understanding of the overall culture and character of humanity at large. Focus too strongly on one thing and you'll miss others.

Yesterday I listened the the radio program 1-A in which an artificial intelligence proponent and expert described the impact of technology on the arts. He described how artificial intelligence, (a-i) would put "art" in the hands of the masses, making all things so easy for all.  With A-i and without carefully cultivating skill of hand and without knowing or learning anything but the manipulation of the device, each of us could be an artist without exerting any effort at all. In fact, we could set our devices in motion, creating art, and just check in on their progress once in a while to observe what we've "done."

And I ask the question that one engaged in the tactile arts must ask.
What is the impact of this proposed future on our humanity? 
We set ourselves apart from the mundane and from each other by developing expertise, skill and creative intellect.  Our creative vision that we hope to share with others comes from within our uniquely meaningful experience. The character and intelligence of the individual human being rests upon having done difficult and demanding things. When all of our judgment, our character and our intelligence has been off-loaded to the artificialized intelligence of our digital stuff, what will remain of us?

That is the future that stands before us now. We can reject that dismal life by engaging in the arts. Make music with a real instrument. Make something real from wood. Paint with a brush on canvas something you witness in real life. When you are done, try again and attempt to improve what you've done.

A vision of that future when very little remains of us was imagined by E.M. Forster in his short story, The machine stops. I have shared this short story before with readers because it is prophetic.

It was written and published in 1909

Today I will string guitars and finish the photography and text.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

gender and sloyd...

Yesterday I visited the turning studio at ESSA and noted that there is an exact balance between men and women in attendance. The teacher is a woman. Any notion that woodworking is gender specific is in error.

Unfortunately, in the early days of Educational Sloyd, the roles of men and women were relatively fixed within society. Women at that time did not have the right to vote or own property, and this was true in most cultures around the world.

Given those circumstances, it made sense for boys to learn those things that would be accomplished outside the home, and women to be taught those things that were learned and done within. The gentleman in the photo above is Hans Thorbjörnsson, my guide to my visit at Nääs in 2006. Together we went though a huge archive of photos showing men and women almost in equal number, students from all over the world, learning to teach Sloyd. Attendance at Nääs prepared women returning to the US prepared to take leadership roles in American Education.

Unlike the Russian system of woodworking education, that was intended to prepare students for industrial employment, Educational Sloyd was intended to prepare students for life. This did not favor men over women. In fact, following the guidance of Froebel and Pestalozzi, the gifts of women in the teaching profession were well accepted and promoted. While the stupidity of earlier times failed to recognize women as full partners in voting and property rights, the character and quality of the individual (men and women) was of primary concern in Sloyd.

Today I will finish work on the article about making a box guitar.

Make, fix, and create...

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

turning the world around.

This week at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, we have a class with Judy Ditmer. She is a nationally known woodturner who has written for a variety of publications and we are pleased to have her teaching here.

A person standing at a lathe is not just making an object, but is also transforming self in the spirit of craftsmanship.

I listened to a report yesterday speculating on the return of manufacturing in America. Manufacturers are are finding too few persons interested. Too few have an understanding of what it takes to build a quality product. And so we wonder when educational policy makers will begin to connect the dots.

Schooling must not be about reading and math alone, but must also help students find joy in making real things in service of family and community.

I have been continuing to order things needed for equipping the new wood shop, and yesterday I ordered lamps to fit each of our 9 Robust lathes. I had felt that the lathe room has been just a bit dark, but the spot lights at each lathe will not only brighten the place but also make each lathe station a stage for performance art.

Today, In addition to working on the article about making a box guitar, I'll be preparing for my week long class making pocket boxes.

Make, fix, create, and share what you learn so that others may learn likewise.

Monday, July 17, 2017

almost done

I am attending to the final details on the box guitar for Woodcraft Magazine. The bit of blue tape is to glue down a chip that was coming loose. The steel plate for attaching the strings is ready to attach after the finish is applied.

The point of this guitar is that it can be quickly made and still worthy of play. The more you make the better you get at it, and by applying yourself over a period of time, and adding just a bit to your knowledge as you go, some degree of mastery can be attained.

Choose a worthy goal for yourself. Apply yourself over time. The goal may be in music, the culinary arts, gardening or in the tactile arts and visual arts.

In a comment on an earlier post, Kim Brand described giving a work bench to his grandson. He had not realized how important having a creating space of his how might be to his grandson's level of enthusiasm. Kim further described how the neighbor children now come to watch his grandson's creative efforts.  A bench vise might be a good addition.

Years back, following a presentation I made on the Wisdom of the Hands at the Craft Organization Development Association meeting, an artist told me of having purchased woodworking tools for her grandson. Her daughter-in-law would not let them in the house. She was concerned her son would make a mess and damage the furniture. So she had chosen instead to make a mess of her son's life.

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017


I am home from the Stowe family reunion in Montana, and I'm ready to finish making a couple box guitars for an article in Woodcraft Magazine. I will also begin getting ready for a class at ESSA making pocket boxes. I expect to see review files for my box guitar book soon, and I am also getting ready for a class at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking beginning August 7. There are still openings in the class in Connecticut.

A few photos from my trip are as follows:
  1. A view from the wooden vessel DeSmet, while on a tour of MacDonald Lake. 
  2. A view of MacDonald Lake with standing dead trees from the forest fire of 2003.
  3. My daughter standing on the Continental Divide on the trail to Hidden Lake.
  4. The Road to the Sun.
  5. A typical view in the Glacier National Park.
The DeSmet is one of the fleet of old wooden tour boats still kept operable on the lakes of Glacier National Park.  These wonderful boats were featured in Wooden Boat Magazine last year. It was lovely being in Glacier National Park and seeing the number of young families getting a taste of wilderness.

Make, fix, create and introduce children to the wonderful world of nature and of real things.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

cocktails for a cause...

This week while I am in Montana, Cocktails for a Cause in Eureka Springs will be held at
Amigo's Restaurant on Spring St. in downtown Eureka Springs at 5 PM Thursday, July 13. Cocktails for a Cause is being held as a fundraiser for the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. Part of the fundraiser will be the auction of a box that I made for a product review in the current issue of Fine Woodworking Magazine.

It is made from spalted sycamore, walnut and cherry.

The box to be auctioned is shown in the photo.

While I've been away on vacation, the ESSA wood studio hosted 30 members of the Stateline Woodturners for three days of demonstration and class.

Make, fix, and create.

Monday, July 10, 2017

making minor adjustments in perception of the real world.

I am in Montana for a family reunion but have brought work with me in the form of digital photos that I'll select, label and caption for the article about making a box guitar for Woodcraft Magazine. I am also working on a couple more articles for Fine Woodworking Magazine. One will be about making finger joints on the table saw, and the other being considered is about making a child's workbench based on those we've used for years at the Clear Spring School.

It is beautiful here, and it is a treat to see so many members of my extended family. Today's our cooking day. We will prepare dinner for the whole family. My jobs will be to tote and chop.

When artists look at the world in an effort to draw what they see, they are encouraged to look at both positive and negative space. In positive space, shapes are formed by light falling on the boundaries of the object. Negative space consists of the emptiness or empty space between positive forms. As examples, if you are standing with your hand on hip and your elbow extended, the triangular space formed between the crook of your arm and your torso would be called negative space, or if two people stand apart, the space between would be negative space.

Unlike the artist, we are taught to dwell upon and identify positive forms related to positive space. It is easier to simply name an object than to comprehend all the relationships of that object's place in the world. And yet things are complex and profound. One of the exercises I use in teaching box making is that of thinking outside the box. It is easy to think of a box in a simplistic matter, and yet, a simple box, when viewed from a variety of perspectives is complex. What is to hold, what are the materials used, how are the corners secured, and how does it open? How is it decorated (if it is), and what skills are expressed in its making? And of course what's the point?

The exercise of examining the real world, beyond the prejudgements we and others have made of it requires that we examine the not so empty space that surrounds us. We are given a choice in life. We can think of ourselves as isolated, separate and alone, or we can instead understand that the artificial boundaries within which sequester ourselves is illusion. The space between us in not empty space. It is filled with relationship. When we we make an effort to understand both positive and negative space we know that we are not truly individuals, but are instead, part of an incredible wholeness. And as parts of that wholeness and as we begin to understand our opportunities within that wholeness, we may choose to go great lengths to take great care of each other.

This is not new information. Anaxagoras, in the image above holds what appears to be a model of the world even before the earth was known to be a sphere. He was the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who said that "Man is the wisest of all animals because he has hands." Anaxagoras also believed that "in everything there is a share of everything," foreshadowing Froebel's concept of Gliedganzes or inter-connectedness. So all this is about things you can learn in Kindergarten and wood shop.

Make, fix and create...