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.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

ESSA volunteer work day.

Today at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, volunteers will be helping to assemble workbenches and machines as we prepare for our opening day celebration, June 4. There is a lot of work to do. But willing hands make work a joy.

Yesterday I had my most successful White St. Art Walk ever, thanks to having sold a walnut hall table and a number of books and boxes. I faced a continuous stream of old friends and familiar faces throughout the evening.

The hall table was made for my book Rustic Furniture Basics. It is on sale, so use the discount code SPRING20 at checkout.

There seems to be a growing interest in our Wisdom of the Hands Program of Woodworking with Kids. That's a good thing. The idea is simple. The use of the hands facilitates learning and remembrance of learning. To observe the hands and what they create provides a sincere and truthful measure of character and intellect. When children are given the opportunity to measure their own growth through what they create they need little adult interference. Given tools and guidance we can watch them joyfully create.

Last night some attendees at White St. commented on all the things I do. I write, I make, and I teach. My excuse is that it all revolves around woodworking, and I need to do only one thing at a time.

Make, fix, create, and give a lasting gift to others by helping their hands learn work.

Friday, May 19, 2017

funny development.

A friend, Les Brandt is a wood turner who will be teaching our first class in the new wood studio, and he volunteered to do research among wood turners concerning lathe tool holders. Ironically, he sent me the photo here which I recognized as being my own, made years ago for the Clear Spring School wood studio.

The thing I like about this design is that the tool is held in such a way that the tip can be observed. It must be wall mounted high enough that the points of the tools present no danger.The design also relies on a French cleat. One angled piece is affixed to the pipes, and the matching angled piece is attached to the wall. The rack is easily removed so it can be put away when the lathe is not in use.

A wood turner had found the image on Pinterest, and thinking it a good idea, had saved it. I had shared it on the internet sometime in about 2002. The arm in the photo holding the tool holder is indisputably my own. The collection of tools in it belongs indisputably to the Clear Spring School.

So, it is extremely funny to have chased around the internet for ideas, only to be directed home to my own shop. The idea of using PVC pipe to hold tools is not originally my own, but my own simplification of the idea using seems to have inspired others, and has come home to roost again. A friend said, "full circle."

Yesterday I took a walk through of the new ESSA wood shop with the architect and contractor to go over final details. Today I have White St. Art Walk where I will be selling my work at Lux Weaving Studio.  The White St. Art Walk is one of the premier arts events in the state of Arkansas. Come see me and enjoy the works of many of our fine artists. Buy things. Your money can support the arts.

Tomorrow, Saturday, May 20, volunteers will join me at the new ESSA wood shop to assemble woodworking equipment.

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

purposeful repetition

I repeat myself for three reasons.
  1. Readers of the blog are constantly changing. 
  2. The same exact points remain pertinent. 
  3. By repeating myself, I have hope that my message is refined to the point that it cannot be ignored. 
It's a lot like making boxes. Your first won't have the same level of refinement as your second, and by the thousandth time repeating myself, I hope to be crystal clear.
I was talking with a robotics teacher yesterday, and we know that robotics are all the buzz. Kids and parents are excited about the subject. It's new and exciting. But he's found his students have no idea of how to use a screwdriver. They've held complex objects their whole lives but without ever having developed the necessary skill or curiosity to take something apart.

So here we go again with the principles of educational Sloyd one-more-time (it will not be the last).
  • Start with the interests of the child
  • Move from the known to the unknown
  • From the easy to the more difficult
  • From the simple to the complex
  • From the concrete to the abstract.
These days all things have become screwed up in reverse order. Parents put technologies in their children's hands that they have no way to understand. Children can manipulate what an iPhone shows on its screen, but have no idea what exists at its heart, and no way to control its actual impact on their lives except as consumers constantly in search of newer and more of the same old thing.

This may sound like I'm attacking technology. I am not. If you read the principles of educational Sloyd and understand them, they came to us one hundred years before Jerome Bruner developed his concept of "scaffolding." We throw children willy-nilly into advanced technologies without providing the scaffolding for them to become masters of it.

So, is there a place for wood working and woodworking education in the world of the iPad and fingers sliding over glass? I call for all hands on deck. We need whole persons to inhabit and protect our lovely planet. We need whole persons to make lovely and useful things that continue to express the heights of our humanity. Do we need more robots working mindlessly, or do we need thoughtful human beings to whom we may entrust the sacredness of life?

Make, fix, and create.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

an act of defiance.

American politics are bonkers. We have Trump in the white house. Daily, he proves himself to be inept and uncaring. Even conservatives are starting to get the picture. Republicans in Congress remain silent for the most part. Trump serves them proudly as a wrecking ball to destroy all the programs that they do not like, ranging from environmental protection to protection of health and family.

But as long as he's doing the dirty work to fulfill the Republican agenda, the Republicans in Congress appear to tolerate every conceivable outrage that Trump can muster.

In the meantime, there are good things to be done. The making of useful beauty in an age of imports and cheap stuff is in some ways an act of defiance. It's moving against the flow of destructive force and directly into the million+ year heritage of human kind.

Perhaps this blog should be a politics-free zone, where we can escape what ails us as a nation. But to create useful beauty is a political act. To do so not only shapes the world around us, it shapes our own hearts and minds as well. And so I console my readers in these difficult times, and urge that we take matters and materials into our own hands. Let's preserve and protect our planet so that our greatest grandchildren imaginable and even the least among them will know its beauty. And let's use our hands and hearts to set an example. There are big things afoot in Washington, DC in which the whole fabric of our nation is being sorely tested. But, again, I repeat myself as I always do, When we make useful beauty, we transform the world around us, and ultimately to the betterment of all.

This is a busy week. Yesterday I made a trip to pick up tools. Today we unload those tools and begin moving them in place. I also will begin setting up for the White St. Walk in which I hope to sell some of my work. Today and tomorrow I have phone calls with schools that are interested in the Wisdom of the Hands philosophy.

Make, fix, create, and defy the odds.