Posts Tagged ‘workshop’

Certain things happen over and over again, even if you don’t want them to.  Or even if you want them to, they happen very often at the most surprising time– or at least sooner than you would like.  Or later.  Like weather does.

  • Last Spring and This Winter

What you see in the large image is what the shop looked like about 10 weeks after we moved to this remote cabin about 800 feet up in the Olympic National Forest foothills.  A perfect spot for making art and carving bowls.  The boxes you see in there are unpacked items that had not yet found a good place to land, and the mess in the carport was stuff left from the previous tenant(s) who have enjoyed this property over its forty some years of existence.  The picnic table is sitting at that odd angle with its nearest side missing its bench board, because of the many times the driveway there has been badly flooded with run-off from the high mountains over to the left.  In rainy seasons, endless water comes from those hillsides, and in spring snow melt makes it even more dramatic.  The picnic table just kept sinking and sinking, and its big bolts rusted out and the wood expanded and contracted and then split, leaving the bench on the ground and rusty bolts sticking up at people contemplating finding a seat.   I find this table indispensable for outdoor carving and other messy projects.  I am indebted to the landlord for refusing to move that table (as if anyone could move it without simply sawing it up and burning it in the fire pit.) He knew how handy it always had been.

As you see, July turned into January of the following year, and the records will show that we had a record breaking winter storm during the first part of January which dumped well over a foot of snow all over the place.. over our trees (some of the well over 100 feet and with limbs stretching well over fifteen feet laterally, with lots of good surface footage to collect heavy loads of snow), and piled up an extra-huge layer of white on the picnic table.  Attatched to the building there are tarps to direct the wet or frozen material from the eaves to somewhere outside the unsealed base of the building.  The floors are not graded, and water likes to run inside. It is a garage, after all, most people think!

I have been maintaining two moats that go abreast of the building– the one of the left is currently a swiftly running river which, by human design, skirts the underpinnings of the building and sends the rushing water off into the woods as it slopes down behind.  On the right side is a smaller moat leading from the flood-prone graveled area to a groove dug around the periphery of the carport, which also (if debris is kept clear) moves toward the back of the building and then down the gorge to the right.  I have no idea where it goes from there, but am just happy to see it not staying near my shop for any length of time.

The cycle of seasons is clearly a life-principle that reminds us mortals that there are systems that we don’t control.  And the same sorts of things happen in all realms of life, for better or worse.

The repeat of relationship dysfunctions insists on reappearing time and time again.  Even through generations, things happen a certain way because they ALWAYS happened that way in a given family.  Opening one’s eyes to see the patterns is very difficult.  And while it is  difficult to understand the pattern as regards other people in an “off” relationship, it is nearly impossible to get any objectivity as to one’s own patterns within the cycle.

Dance of Anger is a helpful book.  Case studies on close relationships that are awry– and the story of how certain people approached mending this.

I am by nature a person who abandons things I cannot solve.  Really.  No wonder I have several really special friends who have accused me of being disloyal and abandoning them.  Well, it was out of self-preservation.  How did I get into these relationships?  Out of caring for the good things in these worthwhile and excellent people.  But I can not weather the storms that arise in these particular close relationships– not with the tools I currently have.  How long would it take to teach a 74 year old woman new tricks?

Actually, I have had professional counsel that leaving these relationships alone was a good move– because the gyrations of keeping them alive was going to make me nuts. I was told that the other party, in each case, was one that needed therapy also, and that was not something I could do for them.  And they would not.  One of the very serious mistakes I have made over and over again is choosing just the kinds of interesting folks who will get into this interplay with me– and it’s likely because it is a pattern that I grew up with and thought was normal.  I thought it was just natural to be bullheaded and to have close relatives who were also bullheaded and self-absorbed.  (Not a good combo if two such ones try to collaborate without some professional coaching.)

So, I need reworking — but I’m too tired now to do it. (the bullheaded part of me is insisting that that is true, and my aches say amen.)

I hope others will get smart soon and find out soon enough what is causing a disagreeable and disheartening demise of good friendships and other relationships.  Identifying the pattern is the biggest part of stopping the cycle.

It can, happily, work the other way.  I like the way bread teaches you how to handle it so that the loaf comes out smelling and tasting exactly perfect– a win win. You make mistakes, but you adjust…and you read about yeast and flour and heat and timing and try again.  In a while, you wonder how you didn’t make a good loaf of bread!  You forget the clumbsies you committed because you and the bread have created a cooperative give and take that works for both of you and produces something special.

May the readers of this enjoy mostly good cycles and learn to make the most of them.  Like all that snow in the small picture above… it makes the green happen next spring.  And the table gets lower and lower.  Soon a bench will be moot.

old swimmer


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   Judy and I enjoy a swim the summer were putting up 3 Americas! 2001

Judith Wray, a wonderful and amazingly productive art friend, sent me an email today featuring a toolbox that is famous and wonderful.  This set off a series of things including this bit about my father.  Judy said, POST IT.  So here it is.

From my friend Judy Wray I got this email reference..sent just for me to enjoy!

H. O. Studley Masonic Tool Chest      <click on this link to see amazing tool box


The look of tool chests can tell us much about workers and workplaces. While their purpose is to organize, carry, and protect tools, this chest also suggests what a worker thinks of himself and how society measures the value of his work.

Judy asked if I got it, and I replied.  Judy responded by saying I should post the following to my blog.  I hope others enjoy the story of my father and his special love of tools.  And of me!  …


Yes, indeed, I did look at the fabulous tool chest, and then I forwarded it to my son David.  He will love it too.

One does wonder, though, whether someone who works from a tightly packed chest like that puts the tools away each time they are used and then “finds” them again, or whether, maybe, there is an occasional moment of “mess” on the workbench with a lot of chaos and tools here and there while something is being made.

I recognize the special devotion to the tools, and I get it from my father, who spent much more time designing places for all his tools in his basement workshop than he spent using said tools.  It is one of my pungent memories, all those leather pockets for a zillion specific awls, and bits, and gears and calipers and files, (on and on and on) that he kept and showed me how to use.

I was about four when I first learned about nails and hammers, and how not to hit your fingers.  Also about what I called (to his delight) “hole nails.”  These were screws, of course, with the slot in the head for turning…but they were “hole nails” for a time back in those days.

He had an old post office fixture at the end with maybe 150 cubbyholes into which he fitted wood cigar boxes labeled things like WASHERS and FINISH NAILS and POLISHING WHEELS and JUNK.  I loved to go through them all and see what was what.  Always very carefully and with the joyful oversight of my Dad who called me “Shorty” (because we were a duo and I was the short one.)

My Dad was a semi-reclusive guy (and I am like him often, in this way) who loved to tuck himself into his armchair with the foot stool, with his big supply of cigarettes and Scotch and his newspaper and hunker down for hours with TV running sports, or news, or westerns.  The livingroom was always stuffy with the layer of second-hand smoke.  My children later would come make swirls in the smoke layer.  (their poor lungs).

He was one of my best friends, although he and I had philosophical differences, and some pretty touchy issues that we disagreed vehemently about.  We were open-faced with each other, and did a lot of “admitting/confessing” and apologizing between us over the years.

By the time he died on December 14 in the 1970’s I had done my serious grieving…while watching him slowly run down in a local nursing home.  My mother and I visited him, one of us at least, each day to feed him dinner, and to bring him his prescribed dose of Scotch and Soda (Dr. Metz carefully wrote that out as an order so we could bring it in to him each day.)  He was a double amputee (both legs) and blind during those years…and used to say he was “one of the lucky ones” simply because he got a visit each day, and most of the others in that nursing home got no visitors ever at all.

When he closed his eyes the last time, I told him to “go find Jesus, and He’ll show you the way.”  A tear came down, through his coma, and I took that to mean either that he DID IT, or that he was frustrated by my last ditch effort to get him to believe.  I won’t know til I get there.

But I whispered to him…”Dad, this is what you wanted for Christmas…rest and go.”  And he did.

That night we had planned for the whole family (my five and my mother) to go to the Pacific NW Ballet’s Nutcracker.  We asked ourselves what we should do.  We decided we would be missing Dad no matter where we were sitting, and that he would say…go to the ballet!  So we did.  What a night.   I remember, it was Maurice Sendak’s fabulous costumes and sets, and the ballet was wonderful.  One of the children in the ballet was a neighbor of ours.  Dad would have been delighted…but he would have sat out the event and preferred to nestle down in his chair with his smokes and his drink and his paper.  He would have looked up with a smile and a cocked eyebrow as we came back, and asked, “Well, Shorty, how was the ballet?”

I was blessed with some really fine people in my life.  I am so grateful.

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Carolyn Henderson says this in her blog today:

“As your own middle manager, you wrestle with an orderly, recognizable work schedule wrapped like a python around the insurgent screaming soul of your Muse. “

You nailed it again, Carolyn!  I checked with Robert Genn, too, and he thinks this way too.  So if two faves think alike on this one I will forgive myself for being in my yesterday’s jeans and last night’s jammie tops with a fleece vest on and a heater at my back.  And for having at least eight in-process works sitting around in various states of drying- one which I brought in a while ago from a place on the porch where it was out-gassing from a late night session.

The phone already has taken its slice out of today’s morning.  In an hour or so it will be time for my daytime sleep.  Not called a nap anymore, since it can run into the evening hours when I get up and start all over again, but without the long phone call interruptions.  The housemate upstairs knows I clank around in the kitchen at night getting my second breakfast and second lunch while I intermittently work on various things and catch up on the internet news.  (I don’t own a TV.)

Last night I used a dremel tool, sandpaper, watercolors, oil paints, damar varnish (the one that needed to out-gas), carving tools, glue, leather, spot remover, and brushes, gravity, chemical reactions, and a lot of cleaning up tools in the efforts at these various art items.  A good part of painting is the time between strokes.  Waiting until it is just right to add the next part.

With wood items it often has to do with rolling liquid color around on the object, making it drip unimpeded at just the right speed to make the mark I have in mind.  Then waiting until it is sufficiently dry to drop another color or medium into the bowl and work it in a different manner or direction.   Last night I used a tool to scrape the color multiple times to make a directional texture.  And I tried white as an edge, rather than the black or near black edging I like to use on some of the ridges between planes.

There is a painting that sits looking at me and I do some thinking about it while I work on other things.  It’s a watercolor of what I call Elephant Ankles, of trees standing in a flooded lagoon. Last night I took a very sparse brush to it and laid in some defining darks that I am pleased with.  I’ll keep an eye on it today to see what my Muse suggests next.  Might be a week before she speaks.

That python Carolyn speaks of wraps itself in the most insidious ways some days.  Two days ago I was up an old wood tripod  ladder purposefully and conscientiously  reattaching the rain tarp from the eaves over my workshop door. A  huge wind gust had taken apart an elaborate visquine setup to shunt rainwater away from my door and into the driveway.  It was important to replace it before the next rain.

But the ladder failed.  The tired metal struts that held it apart just decided to bend and collapse, dropping me about four feet onto the concrete apron which had “stuff” lying on it:  parts of the ladderthat dropped ahead of me.  I have ” python marks” on my thigh, rear, elbow and arm of my right side to show for this fall.  Happily my bones are intact;  I didn’t fracture my pelvis or get a pulmonary embolism or any of that stuff my brain wanted to worry about  while I was saying a mild oath and regarding  my arms and legs all spread out on the concrete. The bruises ache, but I am able to do the work I mentioned above during last night’s session,  and I was also able to revisit my tarp project with a garden rake and a garden umbrella to good avail.  Not pretty, but not uglier than the original arrangement, and it will work.

The adventure is frustrating,  but it will stitch itself into the tapestry that is my routine, and become, one way or another, part of my output, whether it’s just this blog entry, or maybe even a painting.

A painting in my archives comes to mind.  It’s called His Stuff, and it is a densely busy oil painting of the garage once used and fully occupied by a guy I was married to who collected art supplies and machines.  I am certain that at least 60% of the objects in that garage weighed over 200 pounds each!  Cauldrons of brass keys,  two giant photo enlargers, stacks of metal, precious exotic hardwood chunks, sculpture maquettes large enough to fill a bathroom. Generators and Oxy/Acetylene equipment, car motors and old gears and propellers. A mirror too large to move without a dolly.

I loved that painting.  It’s one of my best, and it was the chosen subject for a lively discussion group at a close-in art show with mensa-type folks.  EVERYONE related to it somehow,  and one of them really related, saying “what’s that dummy there in the middle?”

My Muse and I  had audaciously  decided to add to the garage collection a  blow-up female figure, somewhat deflated and hanging from the ceiling.  The inflatable figure was symbolic of me, part of his collection of useful objects! I thought that the discussion group reviewer really had a point. That object was a dummy!

But there you are!  The big frustrated sigh became art that others could relate to.  An artist’s life is not mainly the paints or chips.  It’s the output.  And when the output reaches well to others, it is successful art.  That’s what keeps me happily up at night.

Old Swimmer

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raindrops in the workshop

raindrops in the workshop

We have been looking for rain for a long time.  The forest is dry;  the bracken is yellow; the fire danger signs are up;  the bears are coming down from the mountains looking for food, and so are the deer and their accompanying predators, the mountain lions.

Every thing is coming down from up above.  And the rain is a relief.  But it’s coming down in some wrong places!

I knew the water problem would come up with fall weather.  We have a ditch dug, thanks to a nice person named Alfredo who works for my landlord.  Last winter my son dug out a ditch in front of the garage apron and filled it with gravel. But what about the water that comes down ON the apron and invites itself into my workshop area?

Seemed to me, working out there today, that a shed roof installed over the apron would be a plan:  something to direct the water into the driveway at least.  I rigged something just to see if it would work.  I spent probably two hours fussing around with long sticks and also with some left over shingles.  The picture shows the wonderful black plastic solution I came up with, using long sticks as springs propped against the supports in the garage doors, and such.  The shingles are now arranged shingle style on the apron, hoping the rain will decide to shed down into the driveway, but the apron is really quiet flat, not sloped.  I need a dam in my doorway!  And I need to put the stuff in the carport on stilts!  (I need to get rid of it.)

Well, I did get some work done in the shop today, but most of the progress was conducted in my studio where chips and leather scraps are on the floor and things are drying here and there.  It’s good to see some progress.  A vase I have been working on for several days (actually it started months ago with the basic repair of a large check in its side,) got its finishing touches today.  I have created a handle that is installed right over the epoxied and stained crack — quite an invention our of leather scraps and with little holes burned along a strip that I sewed with waxed linen thread and then affixed to the side of the vase with escutcheon pins and two strong leather supports.  The final move was to lace the stitched handle so it had a uniform shaped grip.  I think it’s quite handsome, really.  Not useful– just handsome.  One can put fake flowers in this, or dry weeds.  Or nothing.  It looks as if it has a history.  Well, it has!

Who knew where that tree grew, and how and why it was cut down,  and why the wood turner chose that particular shape, and why the wood decided to crack open just there?  Many hands have handled this piece of wood, including mine.  I know that other hands will come at the bowl outstretched to feel the smoothness of the satiny wood and to try out the handle.  They will look inside and ask if water can be put in there (no), and then they will have their inner dialog about whether they should part with a sum of money for something that is only decorative…but it’s so decorative, after all.  And it’s hand made.  And it’s smooth.    Someone will buy it and love it a lot.  Like I have.


Old Swimmer

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