Reminded of days gone by…

 
This photo popped up in my facebook stream today…

I had snapped the pic a few years ago, when I noticed that my former craft show sign was now a mitten holder. Made me a bit nostalgic for those days when I spent hours on a shaving horse in the yard, and countless trips over the basement stairs to my workshop, then loading the tiny truck with an entire booth’s worth of panels, tent, chairs and tools.

Seen here in the workshop with a young Master Hunter

We loved the camaraderie of our fellow crafters, liberal minded hippies like us. The common joke going around back then, in the early 90’s, was…”What would you do if you won the lottery ? I’d keep making chairs (or pots, or baskets) until the money runs out.”

They had a rule in the better craft circuits that the “makers” had to be the ones in the booth. You could not, say, run a sweat shop with a dozen elves and then have each one scatter on a given weekend to a dozen craft shows. I guess that kept them satisfied that these were “Individually”, and therefore “authentically” handcrafted goods.

It made it difficult for us full time artisans to find the time and expenses to both create and sell our wares, and, though none of us were adequately compensated for the actual hours spent in producing, let alone marketing, we enjoyed a bounty of good companionship and meaningful work.

The first painting I did, for the very first exhibition of my painting career, was this one…

In the Chairmaker’s Wake

I used to carve poems and quotes in the slats.

This one was a favorite, by Willa Cather,
“The end is nothing, the road is all.”

It’s held up pretty well, the saying as well as the chair, over these last few miles. It’s been almost 20 years since I put down the drawknife and picked up the brushes. I made over 500 chairs while the shavings were flying. I have over 300 paintings under my belt…so far.

My hands turn 60 in a few months.
Faithful companions.
They have been leading me the whole time…
down this marvelous road.


Painter’s Notes

I’ve spent this stormy day working on the Painter’s Notes for the new paintings.
If you are of a mind to spend some time away from the news of the ongoing apocalypse,
and would welcome some detours down the pathways of this artist’s musings,
follow this sign…

On my website…http://heatherneill.com/
Under the menu tab…Portfolio
You will find, sorted by year,
all the paintings I’ve ever done.

As I have been loading the new works onto the website,
Small thumbnails appear when you open the window for 2017…
http://heatherneill.com/portfolio/year/2017/

When you click on a thumbnail there,
you open up the larger format image for each painting.

There you will find info like size, and which gallery it is currently exhibiting the work.
Down there, at the bottom of each of those pages, is that quill and teacup logo at the bottom left.

When you click on that…POOF !
It takes you to the Painter’s Notes.

I started writing them when I had my first solo show back in 2001.
I had been a chairmaker for a decade or more,
so I could make money,
so I could paint.
That was a whole lot of work,
and scads more fun,
but a creative reality check.

Turns out, 16 years later,
it was a better bet to try this painting gig out,
so I could carve spoons in my free time.

At that first show I wrote some journal like notes with each painting to help my chairmaking patrons understand that I was putting the handtools down and picking up brushes.

These notes have become an integral part of the painting process for the patrons who took that leap with me, and I offer them for anyone who might be curious about where my mind was wandering when I was at the easel.

We’ve got some new people checking in, hi there,
so I thought a review was in order.
For you well-seasoned followers…
this is just to send a nod and a wink,
and all the thanks in the world.

I’ve written the PNotes for all the new paintings I’ve launched so far.

Tomorrow I begin to document the last six of the new works.
They are the beginning of a substantial body of work that has taken me full circle,
back to the core of my artistic soul,
from the very first brush strokes,
and all the halting stages of creative adventures in between,
to the cascading circles of how I’ve gotten to here…
to the painter, who walks into the studio each day,
wondering what does it mean to be a mature artist.

Who picks up the brushes,
with aging hands,
and trusts that the muses have her back.

Stay tuned.

 


Saved from the workshop…

As you may recall, when our log cabin was underwater in the flood last fall, my basement Chairmaking Workshop was decimated. Among the many attempts by friends during the rescue and cleanup operation was the valiant effort by our friend Susan to rinse and dry the few photographs that I had tacked to the rafters down there.

Oh, it hurts to look back on those days… anyway… today I am in the midst of clearing the office for tax prep and I ran across the tiny stack of the surviving photos. They tell a tale of very early days of my woodworking career and some of the fun that Peter Follansbee and I had and since most of you know me only as a painter I thought I’d share them as proof that once, in a time far far ago… I was a Chairmaker…

The early days

The beginnings at the Follansbee home on Pierce Rd.

Follansbee and Myself along the banks of the Little Conewago Creek...which as you can see is still in it's banks.

 

And now here's his son Daniel hard at work in his Plymouth Plantation workshop.

A chair for nephew Neill

This kid is now in college !

Little Nephew Johnny who is now 16 and well over 6 feet tall.

and...I think this is James, Stephanie's oldest son, Steph being my oldest friend from waaay back in high school...he's now at Brown ...that's my basement workshop in the background.

So there you have it. Now digitally documented for posperity.

When I decided to give painting my full time attention, circa 2000, one of the first things on my easel was this homage to that life of shavings, In the Chairmaker’s Wake…makes me want to sit on my shaving horse and think back on all the happy hours with the old drawknife…